I arrive late in my second-best dress.
My want unraveling like a hem
in my hand. I want to be beautiful.
But this is America, and I am not
special. Identity is a silk slip
only I know I wear. I walk around
like a nobody waiting to be undressed.
I want the whole room to know
my secrets knotted like stars
underneath. Can’t you see?
I’m too on the nose until I’m not.
I’ve stood here for five minutes looking
annoyed and still no one has said hi.
When I catch a boy’s attention,
I’m all face and no teeth.
Mother says I want
like an American but I disagree.
I bite my tongue. Nothing comes
naturally. I compose my composure,
spit out some sad excuse
for an introduction. Where I’m from
depends on where I am now:
the answer always too long
to keep a man’s attention.
Americans are simple, not
hyphenated. I give in and pretend.
My desire is a wire I wear
through my hair. I’m high-strung
and forgettable. When I arrive,
everybody’s occupied. I just want to
be seen. I have a whole story
to tell for every white boy
to verify. I’ve been that girl
who can’t resist declaratives:
when I tell them what I am,
I want an affirmative. I want
their resounding Yes, all their synonyms
for saccharine. I want my taste
in their mouths and a list of every
note. I’m not picky. Here’s a joke:
A girl walks into a party.
She leaves as someone else.