Mick Powell my student makes a video of herself lighting the flag on fire

she says the red of it blooms

a sour bruise in her mouth,

reminds her of her mother’s hands,

how they tilled rocked earth

into fields of flora, godetias,

and brought bowls of mashed guava,

sliced mango, pitted pomegranate,

at first from their own backyard,

and later, in the States,

from the bodega on the corner

where they also sold loose cigarettes

and chancletas, condoms, and clean

needles. her mother’s hands, she says,

how the undertaker wiped the blood

from them, from underneath her fingernails,

how the hands folded over her chest

at the funeral, knotted,

how they looked so brown and so clean.

she says the white of it rakes

a dirty violence between her teeth,

reminds her of the white men in suits

at the bodega, their proper English,

their heavy-handed hunger, their red

baseball caps, their pale and flat lips

wrapped around the word mami,

how the m’s curled in their mouths

like dying small things, how one man

with big hands pulled her hair,

and another grabbed her growing ass,

and another screamed something

about getting her to lie on her back;

how she lied on her back beneath

a bleached light and his pulsing body,

how she cursed three Hail Mary’s,

prayed for the hour of her death.

she says the blue of it plants

an ocean in her throat,

reminds her of the dress she wore

in the courtroom, its floral pattern,

her body and how it became both

cause and effect, both the nourishment

and the starvation, the color of the eyes

of both men who said not guilty,

who ignored the blood she swore

was pouring from between her legs

in that moment, in that courtroom,

in that dress, which she tore from herself

that night before she stood naked

in her backyard, the stars a sharp invitation

to remember a midnight when the sky,

bright in its vengeance,

folded against itself, cut open

her closing wound, and poured into it


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