Cultural Appropriation

By Nancy Miller Gomez

a mi esposo

I appropriate your tongue,
your lips, your teeth, the smooth
inner skin of your cheek.

I appropriate your rolled r’s,
and soft v’s, the way you say
wolf without the letter L

(the plural of which is wooves).
I claim the patch of hair
in the small of your back,


your brown skin, your mother’s molé.
I appropriate your mother,
rename her La Loca. I appropriate

your appropriators, the conquistadors
who came with their archangels
and saints, Our Lady of Guadalupe

with a chisel of moon
at her feet. I descend the ladder
of your lineage, past missionaries

and rancheros to inhabit your ancestors’
ancestors, the Nuhuatl gods
with feathered names I’ve learned

to pronounce. Coatlicue, the mother
of mortals, Huiztlilopotchli—
the hummingbird patron of War,

Tialoc—he who makes things sprout.
I appropriate sugar skulls and mezcal,
Día de los Muertos. Your pyramids

and painters, your Kahlo and Orozco.
Your poets, Octavio and Carlos.
I take your lowriders

and La Raza, the happy/sad
ting of mariachis singing.
I appropriate each sweet bite

of pan dulce and tres leches
and eat your street tacos
smothered with guac and tapatía.

I’ll take la plaza with its bandstand
and white ibis, the man selling
balloons and churros. And words,

nights filled with appropriated
besitos y sonrisas. Abrazos
and the rest of the Mexican lexicon,

all mine. I’ll take your lime and salt,
your fire and fault lines. And our son,
see where I have appropriated

your blood, your eyes, your love
of basketball, the sport you say
your people created, a game

played by the victors
with the decapitated heads
of their victims.


Originally from Kansas, Nancy Miller Gomez now lives in Santa Cruz, California. Her work has appeared in Best American Poetry 2021, Best New Poets 2021, The Adroit Journal, New Ohio Review, Shenandoah, River Styx, The Rumpus, Rattle, Massachusetts Review, American Life in Poetry, Verse Daily and elsewhere. Her chapbook, Punishment, was published in 2018 as part of the Rattle chapbook series. She co-founded an organization that provides poetry workshops to incarcerated women and men. More at: nancymillergomez.com

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