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TWO POEMS by Ariana Brown


"The term Chicano is derived from the word Mejicano or Mexican, which itself is rooted in the word Mexicano (with the “x” pronounced as “ch”) within the Nahuatl language from which it stems. Mexicano was thus in reference to the Mexica, or Aztecs as later called by the Spanish colonists, and was derived from the union of four terms: meztli (moon), xictli (bellybutton), coyotl (offspring, child of), noxt (yes). Although translations rarely do justice to actual meanings of words, it is from these root words that Mexica translates roughly to ‘children from the bellybutton of the moon’. Likewise, Xicano, from its Nahuatl base can be taken to mean an affirmation ‘Yes! I am the child of the bellybutton/earth’."

Robert Hernandez, Running for Peace and Dignity

When I am unveiled

this time, I dazzle

the mouth. Crown the tongue.

Cradle the sob of waterfalls &

summon every child. Ven

aquí, todos. Escuchame,

finally. Pull me from

the deadest root & watch

it ripen in the good air.

Blessings to all parts of earth

whom are forgotten. Blessings

to the splintered leaves, the dark

stars, the sunken branch. Here

is the calling forth, the new

beginning. Yes, I am old

& debuting fresh wind; yes,

I am young with the pulse

of raucous citizens -

recycled poem, shred of

warrior past - I am the hollered

rush of the Rio Grande, the

feet caught between two

lands. I am the omitted

passage; the forbidden water,

the hieroglyph, the non-border.

Walk me along your name until

I become you, niño de los indios,

de los árboles, del cielo. Yo olvido

nada. & my memory is yours, too.

A ver. Tus manos son los mismos

a miyo. I am closer to you than

even death. Mirame, resurrected

in Coyolxauhqui’s fractured pieces.

I measure the length of legends.

I swim with ancient grace.

I am a red string around

the ankle of history,

holding together my children

in my splendid mouth.


All language is made

up. The "x" makes Latino,

a masculine identifier,

gender-neutral. Remember

the first time a man claimed

possession of a thing? No?

I suppose none of us do &

since no one can recall

what made the first man’s

eye shine & his sweat

glow like a grown demon

& his fingers’ bright pulse

thump and coil around

a flag or a woman or name -

that moment;

that’s why you need me.

I also move[sic] beyond

Latin@ - which has been

used in the past to include

both masculine and feminine

identities - to encompass

genders outside of that limiting

man-woman binary. Let me

loose so the bodies tangled

in men’s old words & worlds

can sway. I cost only practice,

a small life on the tongue,

rolled around the mouth

in praise & patience. Don’t

all defiant bodies deserve

their own victory? Or don’t

you remember the river,

what it feels like to be

a ghost? Latinx, pronounced

"La-teen-ex," includes

the numerous people of Latin

American descent whose gender

identities fluctuate along

different points of the spectrum,

from agender or nonbinary to

gender non-conforming, genderqueer

and genderfluid.¹ All exclusions

are crafted by men, sometimes

white and straight and

cisgender and able-bodied

and Christian and rich

and for once, I’m

saying the silver

& gold lining these

privileges will sometimes

return to their homes,

cut tiny fractures

in the thief’s hands,

insist on the truth.

& though you’ve

made an identity

of stealing

other people’s things,

here’s the thing -

you cannot morph

a body into something

it is not, can’t magick

a man into a saint or

a soul into a colony.

what concern of yours

are the mathematics

of another human’s

gender? lay down your

measuring tools. grasp

instead the letter ‘x’,

my name, gift

from the survivors,

marrow of the new

community which

has always existed

& will answer only

to its true & chosen



¹excerpted from “Why We Say Latinx: Trans & Gender Non-Conforming People Explain” by Raquel Reichard for Latina magazine


Ariana Brown is an Afromexicana poet from San Antonio, Texas, with a B.A. in African Diaspora Studies and Mexican American Studies. She is the recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize, a 2014 national collegiate poetry slam champion, and is currently working on her first manuscript. Ariana is earning an MFA in Poetry at the University of Pittsburgh.

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