Tuesday May 21

JenniferMaritzaMcCauley Poetry Jennifer Maritza McCauley is a writer, teacher and Ph.D. candidate in creative writing at the University of Missouri. She is also Contest Editor at The Missouri Review, a reviews editor at Fjords Review and an associate editor of Origins Literary Journal. Her most recent work appears or is forthcoming in editions of Passages North, The Los Angeles Review, Jabberwock Review, Split this Rock's 'Poem of the Week,' Puerto del Sol, The Feminist Wire, and A Shadow Map Anthology (CCM Press), among other outlets. Her full-length collection of cross-genre poetry will be published by Stalking Horse Press in fall 2017.


American Sacrileges

Man, I’m asking why
you spitting sin on
the daynews and
calling it holy,


how boring
is your
ego that you still
hate my blackface
this much?


In America,
I have realized
two things, every
year, more than

one: this is not about me
and never should be


is so much
about who I am,
I’m near-crippled by
duty, the weight
of faces that feel
like mine.


might as
well use this
blackbody, this red


When I was a babygirl Mami took me to
all the malls and she hated watching
the twig-thin moms with the trunk-fat kids
manacled by Velcro leashes and she said:
this is the way Americans are with their babies,
I would never shackle my child to me.

One day, Mami took me to
one of the malls because she wanted to buy
me one of those little jackets that keep babies
warm and Mami kneeled down in the OshMcGosh
section and said to me: stayatmyhip there are people who
snatch girlchilds like you.
She said: stay near me while I shop for your new little jacket,
I need to keep my baby warm.

Mami took too-long looking for the
coats that keep babies warm. She thought
all the fabrics were flimsy and the down was
poorly made and she was afraid the sleeves might
break apart in the snow and I’d freeze
to death on the way to the school where the
whitekids were foul. While she got mad at the coats
I decided I would wander off, because I
was not like the fat kids on Velcro leashes, I was free,
selfish and bored with all of Mami’s endless

I called out: I’m leaving, heyhey, I’ll
be off and she didn’t hear me.
When Mami turned I left anyway because
there were shiny and interesting things beyond her
and the fatboys on leashes looked funny and fun so
I ran through all of the kid-dresses on little
girl legs, and there I was, a blackbaby unbound
in an American mall.

Quickly, I got lost and I was somewhere amongst
scowling lady-faces and the fat kids on leashes who
tried to run a circle around their mothers to trip them,
and they ran a circle around me and I tripped
somewhere in the Big Ladies department
next to the Big Men suits.
I called out for Mami, somewhere in an American mall,
amongst parents who didn’t laugh and children
who were always asking for something huge.
A longtime later Mami appeared, red-faced,
weeping, with a stuffed bag of
tiny coats and she said:
Why would you leave me, hija, I’m trying to
keep you warm and safe?

I cried baby-tears and thought with
a baby-mind: this is how I hurt love:
by running off
and this is how love is proven:
when your mother goes looking for you
after you’ve left her to mourn
your absence

and she finds you,
always, always.

in some relationships,
men get mad
at my cold spirit
and say things like:
maybe the only person
who will ever love you
right is your mother.

What’s New

Sometime ago, after your first love
says imoverit and switches out
love labels, you’ll find that old dress
he liked in a pile of ugly laundry and
when you see him next, you hope
he’ll notice that old dress and love you
when he sees you again at the hotel bar,
because when you were together
at least you knew
if he didn’t like your talk or spirit,
he loved the way you looked.

You hope he’ll see the high hem
and lace-frilled fringe,
the way that dress
sits on the darkbody he used
to grip and handle, and
when he looks at you with dead-cold
eyes, phone to ear, a fresh voice from
a new girlbody lightly laughing on
the other line,
you turn confidently
into the hotel elevator
in that old dress while strangers
call you cute or foreign,
and you cry until the elevator slams
to the ground floor.

Then, you come out smiling
to friends in the lobby who can see
this smile, that has been fraying for
so many years for so many folks,
they see this smile
has been on its way off your lips, for
a very long time.

Many years later, you cut up that old dress
you wore for him with kitchen scissors
and make it into a shirt that sits nicely
on your short frame and you don’t give
a shit who notices you
because you made an old thing
new all by yourself.

Now you know,
without looking at
any man/girl’s eyes,
you look fucking fine
and your smile
is yours to show off
or bury.

Now you know,
everything on your body
has always belonged to you.