Día de los Muertos

My grandmother did not teach me
to light candles or adorn an altar
with food and flowers.

Instead, she wrinkles her forehead
and suggests therapy, concerned
I still mention him too much.

In my culture, the dead
are not welcomed back for visits
with sugar skulls and sweet drinks.

We don’t consider how a soul
might want to return and dance
in the flickering light of a candle.
How he might want to hear
his favorite song, laugh at his old jokes.

We advise widows to stay away
from the café where he proposed.
To put away photos. Not to bake
the brownies he loved on his birthday.

“Because it’s healthier,” my grandmother
warns, donning her mask for Halloween.

______________________________________

But Other

Are you white?

My face does not decide this question.

Torchlit parades
in Berlin and Charlottesville
check the box for me.

Not White. Not Black. Not Brown. But Other.

My blood, not my skin, soils the Master Race.

Young men in polo shirts
chant slogans and wave sticks.
Burn the darkness
my existence represents.

Why do they hate you?

A friend asks at a party
two weeks after Nazi flags
fly in Charlottesville for photos
posted nationwide.

I chew my lips, unable to articulate
the map in my head, plotting the path
of Jews expelled from Spain,
the year Columbus sailed to America.
Ancestors who settled in Sarajevo and elsewhere
only to be relocated by train to Auschwitz.

Are you white?

My blood, not my skin, decides this question.

_______________________________________________

Jacqueline Jules is the author of three chapbooks, most recently, Itzhak Perlman's Broken String, winner of the 2016 Helen Kay Chapbook Prize. Her poetry has appeared in over 100 publications including Sow's Ear Poetry Review, Hospital Drive, and Imitation Fruit. She also writes children’s books. Visit www.jacquelinejules.com.