Jennifer Maritza McCauley


Jennifer Maritza McCauley is a writer, teacher and editor. She has received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and awards from Best of the Net, Independent Publisher Book Awards, the Academy of American Poets and a Pushcart Prize Special Mention. She is presently fiction editor at Pleiades, and received her PhD in creative writing & literature from the University of Missouri. Her cross-genre collection SCAR ON/SCAR OFF was released in 2017 on Stalking Horse Press.


My Blackness is a celebration. Being Afro-Latinx, to me, is a celebration. Of joy, liberation, selfhood, community, language, strength, vulnerability, resilience, future. I'm lucky to have a Black-American father and Boricua mother who showed me the beauty of Blackness and the immensity of our cultures, history and the ancestors we carry in our bodies. We’ve had to navigate difficult and often seemingly impossible terrains, but we are self-determining, and know our spirits are “deliberate and afraid of nothing,” as Audre Lorde says. Pa’lante.

Because Tigers Won’t Change Their Stripes

I don’t know what to tell you, bro. Sure,

I could water down my nasty,
warm up my shivery, could
sugar-stamp my sour

but I won’t.

& I won’t switch my skin,
how it spreads on bones
or catches color.

This life always gonna be Black.

Sweet as maví, blazed with
past; nose always gonna puff,
hair always gonna crinkle into crown

body always gonna be grand-sized,

mouth always gonna be picante
before turning

Daddy always gonna have said
fight ’til old roots branch out
blooming, Mami always gonna
have cried mucha casera enferma,

get out the damn house and move.

I don’t know what the world
will tell me to change today.

How they’ll call our cultures
baby-boned, how they’ll tell us
we’re mewling about corpse problems
who knows how they’ll foam and caw.

But I ain’t letting their spit
stain this glorious,
not-switching skin.

See: I grow what I should.
Parts that got you shook: Nope.
This mouth always gonna be full-open,
this trap
a Black hole.

This Black life
always gonna be here,
howling so loud sounding
something like




In Daddy’s House

Don’t worry, daughter,
I’ll teach you how
to talk.

Don’t suck your teeth
for nothing.

Pick your times to tussle,
let your anger be choice.
Babygirl, if you cuss,
make sure that Blackmouth

On all days,
fit your face tight.
Keep the mouth a strong
line. When sweet folks
come around, do good.
Go silent for those who do
you mean, unless the stink
of injustice gets too foggy,
fat or foul, if it gets
’til you can’t smell nothing
but sin, then, daughter,
you tussle.

On normal days, stay even.
Toughen the eyes.
No slippage from the
eye-ducts, forget all your crooked,
leaking scars.

Remember the price of showing
hurt, so: choose your hurt.
Rarely show them your hurt-twisted face.
So then: Smile. Nod
twice. Get ready.

Remember your woman-body.
Remember your damn

And if life gets too nasty,
if you can’t remember
how to act cool, girl,
imagine your insides
are a long blue sky
flustered with happy cloud.
Imagine your arms are flapping
and you’re flying soft,
tell yourself you’re

Imagine the wind
is sugar-tasting and sounds
like me or your Mami singing
love, imagine you are floating
in that little inside-place that is
only owned by you. Stay in that
inside-place while all the rest are

Stay there, thinking about blue, even
while folks snatch your shoulders,
shake you back to pain, you stay
there, even if your whole life
is screaming.



© The Acentos Review 2020