When I was born, the air was pale and green and gold.
They came to the United States to be a bigger highway.
They came to Venezuela when Perez Jimenez decided
to emblanquecer la raza. What this country doesn’t know
could be another country altogether. Emblanquecer
looks like embalm to me. How lifeless things become
enshrined, instead of being turned back in to earth
when they stop sourcing life. When I was born my oxygen
was pressurized, a cabin in an aircraft hovering no homelands.
My brother making shadow puppets against corrugated walls.
And then more siblings came and with them the unsiblings.
At stake: the always airplane upping me away from. Small
islands are affixed to me. The other white kids call them freckles
the cousins say lunares. Lunar like my other mother calendar.
Continents float by like elephants. Whiteness smooth and supple
on the mouths and mortgages of my relations. It’s very hard
to be something by way of boat or tusk. By way of asthmatic
empire. Or maybe all the time I spend negating what I am
is just avoidance. At stake: so many lives, so many murderous
relations. Compelled by smell, butterflies migrate toward
milkweed miles away, compelled by smell’s white compass.
Every time I try to write this down, the words start to dart
away from me. It is a bandaged half-dream. A bungled
nightmare. This is someone else’s map, I think, pointing wildly
in the dark. No one is here but me. And all my ghosts.
I pull the documents like eyelids over me. Citizenship
papers. Repatriation. I pull the curtains up.
Mónica Gomery is a poet and rabbi, raised by her Venezuelan Jewish family in Boston and Caracas, and now living on Lenni Lenape land in Philadelphia. She is the author of Here is the Night and the Night on the Road (Cooper Dillon Books, 2018), and the chapbook Of Darkness and Tumbling (YesYes Books, 2017). Her poetry has won the 2020 Minola Review Poetry Contest, and has been nominated for Pushcart Prizes and Best of the Net. She was a finalist in the 2020 Newfound Gloria Anzaldúa Poetry Prize. Her poems can be found most recently as a Poetry Foundation Poem of The Day, and forthcoming in Foglifter, Black Warrior Review, and The Journal. Read more at www.monicagomerywriting.com.