Brown, adjective: ‘of a color produced by mixing red, yellow and blue.’
We are primary colors. Primordial. Los primeros.
Is it a matter of being first? Or of being able to last?
Brown (of a person): ‘suntanned or dark-skinned.’
How to explain what it feels like to have
layers of brown upon you
layers of earth dirty looks
and one too many ‘may I help yous’ in department stores?
What’s the problem? That we caught too much sun?
Brown, adjective: ‘a color as of dark wood or rich soil.’
When the summer fell from the sky
above Puerto Rico houses splintered into wood
crumbled into dark soil
and dogs on Playa Lucia were carried away by floods.
In India an ark floated away with a flood
carrying not animals but books.
Seven still sit in the Big Dipper.
America ignored dogs splinters floods tears
the people who’ve had citizenship for
over a hundred years.
Who has time for books when there’s no
Brown, adjective: ‘a term associated with colonialism.’
America recognizes some of its mistakes:
It isn’t India. But not others: It was discovered like a cure
for an infectious disease.
We knew we existed before we were found
worshipping the sun and writing our own myths.
But America forgets its browner people its darker stories.
When México quaked and the ground
People were buried like stories beneath layers of earth.
Layers of ‘not my problem.’
Brown, verb transitive: ‘fire indiscriminately at (a covey of birds, a mass of men, etc.)’
Who will unearth stories of internment by the children
now locked up and held by threat of discriminatory firing?
Our abuelitos’ stories about being beaten in school in Mexican America
for speaking en español have become folktales
What’s the big deal? It’s not Náhuatl Quechua
Quichua Guaraní Aymara Cherokee
Mapuche Taíno Zuni…
Spanish is another history of the conquerors. Color is a history of survival.
Written for a performance at Chicago for The México & Puerto Rico Relief Fund event.
Marcy Rae Henry is Latina born and raised in Mexican-America/The Borderlands. Truth be told, she was already a bit of a hermit before the pandemic. But before that she lived in Spain, India, and Nepal and rode a motorcycle through the Middle East. Her writing and visual art appear or are forthcoming in Hobart, Epiphany, Thimble Literary Magazine, Pretty Owl Poetry and New Mexico Review, among others. Her fiction and nonfiction have received a Chicago Community Arts Assistance Grant and an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship. Ms. M.R. Henry is working on a collection of poems and two novellas. She is an associate professor of Humanities and Fine Arts at Harold Washington College Chicago and a digital minimalist with no social media accounts.