Poet of the Week: Darrel Alejandro Holnes

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The Art of Diplomacy

The diplomat kids at the international school were all
from somewhere else, and those of us who weren’t, needed to be

so I pulled a Sean John shirt over my head
as if the logo were an American flag, although not the same one

President Bush saluted since nobody at school supported
American wars or military operations like the one that destroyed

el Chorrillo, the bombed ghetto behind my house
where I could still hear ghosts at night crying

socorro! as if even in death they never escaped
the flames. At school I wore a bandana like Tupac Shakur

and other rappers our Panamanian raperos and reggaetoneros
imitated in their music videos about

wanting to escape gun violence in el ghetto
but being unable to leave good hood pussy behind.

There was always something more credible
about our moreno stories when they were

told to the beat of an African drum
played with an American gun

as if doing so made us black cowboys or
the next closest thing: West Coast gangster rap gods

who rich kids worldwide, like the ones at my school,
could pretend to be whenever they wanted.

To be a diplomat like our fathers is to serve
the public what they need to eat

like when Alessa speaks with little sympathy to me about
her moreno chauffer’s drug-addicted and jailhouse past

and I serve her Tupac lyrics: First ship ’em dope and let ’em deal the brothers.
Give ’em guns, step back, and watch ’em kill each other.

To be a diplomat like our mothers is to understand others whether or not
you’re understood. Not black like you, Alessa, says,

black as in poor. They fill their lives with drugs because
they can’t afford much else, she attempts sympathy

while speaking to a teenage me rocking Timberland boots
and the most expensive urban wear my parents’ money could buy

wondering what Panamanian void I was filling with
these American things. Perhaps there was a star-shaped black hole

the size of the Panama Canal in the Tommy Hilfiger flag draped
over my chest as if my chest were a casket, as if the government could fold

my body and hand it with condolences to my next of kin
as they failed to do for the families of West Indian men

killed in service of an imported American dream
during the canal’s construction.

Maybe in this black hole my negrura is finally its own country
and I’m finally at home in my own skin.


Published in Day One by Amazon

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