Brown

11 Apr

Brown. Burnt umber. So much that flesh mirrors the red clay
borders of Louisiana and Arkansas. Brown enough to know that
Caddo, Arkansas and Quapaw are more than just street names.
Tobacco bundles for grandpa, smudging memories for political prisoners
Osceola and Wild Cat, remembering Tishomingo battling the French.

Copper. Fallow winters and bronze summers. Wasichus
wait a beat in case they need a Spanish translator
later are amazed at the flawlessness of my English.
Blanched tongues abound, how brown is Nahuatl?
Nearly empty are the gourds that once carried our languages.
We scramble to unbleach the words.

Sienna. Tawny. Just enough to get the Indian price.
Adequate. The only kid allowed inside the Dineh family’s home
on Lowell. I told jokes about Zaragoza, Texas.
Beige enough to stand out at Thanksgiving;
always mama’s ebony aunts asked, “whose this baby?”
Guess they were prepping me to handle falling short.

Redwood. Maroon. The homa rouge of blood wherein
my veins the three continents met. Sandy brown, we were never red,
but hues of caramel, earth and wheat. “Indian Orange,” a prop, a ploy,
better Hollywood’s minstrel tools to praise the cowboys
and kill the natives. Thirty years later Iron Eyes Cody and Raquel Welch
continue to stump the masses.

Bole. Rust. Enough to know why babies die at the foot of the Black Hills.
Sepia enough to understand that nobody cares about the
redblack mixedblood experience. “Good hair” is all the consolation
prize we get. Russet enough to refuse to count quarts of quarters,
but light to zinnwaldite (just about pinky white) ones always will,
validation is in the math and the cards you see.

Brown. Beige. So like moccasins dusting olive drab grass
yellow faded by an auburn summer sun. Cordovan like wearying
leathered hands of grandmothers who tell their last stories
at bingo and lulu for grandbabies underneath
powwow arbors and EZ shades.

The hair on my head is unapologetically wavycurlykinkystraight.
A juxtaposition of those who made me. Carrying their names
in the sheen of the grade, the amber of my eyes, and the glisten on my skin,
I but look within and am reminded of their resilience, their passions
constant like the ground under my feet.
Brown.

 Asani Charles 7/21/11

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