From “Brown Girl Mixtape”
Barbara Jane Reyes
Track: “Sonrisa,” Si*Sé (2001).
Sister, doesn’t your face hurt from smiling all the time.
So does mine. When we are supposed to blossom and smile,
let’s wail low instead. We’ll wail so low, and so long.
Under the breath, so quiet, we’ll spell. We are so tiny to their eyes.
Time will move, and time will push us all along,
and they will forget we are there, as speck, as germ, as lurking, as dark.
We are a tinted tongue of tiny heat. If you want to know how to break the big —
sometimes, we are the spore, and sometimes, sister, yes, we are the spark.
Track: “A Little Bit of Ecstasy,” by Jocelyn Enriquez (1997).
Every single thing our titas cannot bear to see.
Every single bit of native skin flashing, island warm, hella not Castillian, hella not Eskinol, every single bit of not Euro nose, and not Anglo eyes.
Every full hip sway, every long braid whipping around, every body piercing gleaming golden, every lush stroke, every raised eyebrow, every dark full lipsticked, bronzed as bourbon and beaming, glorious nape and clavicle bared, every bit of high heeled wide stance, fists to open hands.
Every single thing our pearl clutching titas wished us not to be.
Track: “Bad Girls,” by M.I.A. (2010).
We (dis)(orient)(al) girls, we all side eye, gasoline, and gravel,
yeah. We gold dust coated, we bad mannered bitches,
we brown, and we drive, and we dirty. Yeah, we drive dirty,
and we call your bullshit the bullshit it is when you say smile,
when you say sweet, when you say easy, we spit hard fast,
we say fuck you, we say fuck your orient. Yeah, we nails and teeth,
and you don’t want to mess with us. We full of kick and claw,
we full of bite. We say eat our dust, we say eat our tire tracks,
and we say girl, hell yeah. We good.
Track: “Love, Peace and Harmony,” by Bow Wow Wow (1983).
How I wanted Me bad badass and badly, Me, drumming bang bang, Me riot
woman booming, Me not ornament girl Me but one hella glittered self who is
your You and my I, not little things, only always feathered, belonging, a wild
You, a hella starburst wow, and how I wanted Me to be hella starburst too, how I
wanted Me to be You, a rushing, chair throwing I, a table flipping heart, and how
I wanted Me to be the blistered woman ruckus, banging, booming, how I am You
crashing fire woman, You not sidepiece You, but unpolished seething goddamn
human to my Me, an ever crushing heart that is You.
Track: “Soulful Dress,” by Sugar Pie DeSanto (1964).
We’ll shake and we shout ‘til morning and roar.
No, there’s nothing tamed about us, not the hemline,
not the neckline, not this streak of red lipstick,
not these shit kickers. Nothing silent, nothing shy,
nothing here but fly. Nothing asking nothing from you,
‘cept, get outta our way, ‘cept this is no ask.
Don’t tell us to dial it down. Don’t tell us to be ladies.
We’ll show you our teeth. Don’t lecture that we reckless,
just recognize. You step the fuck back son, and you recognize.
Barbara Jane Reyes: "I am the author of Invocation to Daughters (City Lights Publishers, 2017). I was born in Manila, Philippines, raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, and am the author of four previous poetry collections, including Poeta en San Francisco (Tinfish Pres, 2005), which received the James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets, and Diwata (BOA Editions, Ltd., 2010), which received the Global Filipino Literary Award for Poetry. Letters to a Young Brown Girl is forthcoming from BOA Editions, Ltd. in 2020. I teach in the Yuchengco Philippine Studies Program at University of San Francisco. www.BarbaraJaneReyes.com.