Jasminne Mendez

Small Talk After A Reading in Texas: A Haitian Massacre

Pain Scale: 8


I spoke in foreign tongues in a dimly lit
space & felt my throat tremble with regret 

as the teeth of a country I cannot claim
threatened to peel back my skin and leave me to rot.

I moistened my mouth with the bitter & told you
of haiti & trujillo. I spat seeds of brown &

black spirits drifting along appropriated borders
to watch them grow. like coarse skin & pulp

I sifted my narratives through the white paper
funnel of your privilege and watched it dissolve.

my words leaked like punctured mangoes
onto parchment paper and I left them

dripping & sticky sweet naked on a stage
for your public consumption and greed.

then at the end of the reading you paid
only with time to feed off, you approached

my table and recognition sauntered across your
powdery face. the haitian massacre of 1937 reminded you

of a mammie you had as a child. a woman who
bathed you like a mother. dark arms rocked chairs

on a porch & conjured songs of a french island you knew
from a map. she left you tart like lemonade soaked

in the mud of a southern texas town plantation & you finally
found her in my words again. like the heat, you felt

it necessary to warm me with her memory so
I forged my name on a story of a life I once knew

misspelled yours and signed it
with love

Counting Beads

     -para mi familia Rosario


     Our father who art in heaven/hallowed be thy name…


My name is an amen  
     at funerals   
for weeping women   
     in the belly of starving children
twisted in the palms
     of priests & nuns  
choked by knuckles
     sweaty against the pulse of a chest
the heat of sin
     singes fingertips

Padre nuestro que estas en cielo/santificado sea tu nombre…

In Texas the school secretary
     laughs and reduces my apellido
to a first name
     My silence anoints her with fear         
her eyes swallow full of grace
      I’m sorry
she presses & folds her knees
     into the concrete pews of her gut       
to wash my amen from her tongue
     now and at the hour of her death       

Our father who art in heaven/hallowed be thy name…

 I say penance
    & curse the nurse Maria          
who scoffs and says
     Rosario, como la criada            
de la casa del patron
     the help of your Father’s house 
there to wash your dishes, your clothes,  
     your children & your sins
but I am not built for that             
     kind of cleansing 

Padre nuestro que estas en cielo/santificado sea tu nombre…..

The taste of my name’s holy spirit      
     blesses gums like a mouthful of glass ground to dust
I hang on a cross round the neck of my rearview mirror
     for protection against every evil
I count each tresspass like a prayer of beads on a rosary

Our father who art in heaven/hallowed be thy name…..
Padre nuestro que estas en cielo/santificado sea tu nombre….. 

     my name
my name
my name
my name
my name



Outsourced: A Love Song

          -For G.S.


A Sikh man let me taste him once. Let me scar his flesh
     with touch & outsource his love to the highest possible bidder. 

Let his uncut braided conversations wrap around my waist
     and hold me like a song. Felt holy in the brown of his eyes 

& in the swallow of his neck. Beneath a chest of hairs I let
     a Benghra rhythm keep our hearts in sync. We gathered our youth 

like drum sticks in the unsteady grips of our fingers & let
     a tempo beat us immortal. We puffed & ate & drank desire 

with gentrified tongues. Let crystallized pipes swirl with sheets
     of smoke that staccatoed into radio speakers where we let ourselves 

forget.  As I strummed his Urdu song along the strings of my Spanish
     hair we translated stares but never the music. We let years 

 dance inside the rythym of an impossible destiny. Betrothed
         only to the moment, I let a Sikh man love me once.

© The Acentos Review 2016