My Mother Taught Me Who I Am

Langston Kerman

my mother taught me who I am,
Trapped under low notes of mid-week blues,
Whose song ended with a lay-off,
Mom still managed to Etcher Sketch smile
between freshly dried cheeks
so that tears and less toys
wouldn’t ruin Christmas.
I was four,
Returned home from school,
Carrying a smile so wide
each end was strapped to a shoulder,
Skipping to the sounds of size-too-big boots
flopping on our one room apartment floor,
Singing, today’s newest song,
I’m a Peach, I’m a Peach, I’m a Peach . . .
Hey Mom, I’m a Peach.
Waiting for a warm grin,
Or at least,
That nod parents give,
when they really don’t give a damn,
Instead, her earth-colored hand
grabbed my arm,
Squeezing blood to fingertips,
She said, Boy you are not a Peach
I explained between sobs that,
Shawn said he’s chocolate, and Daniel called Vanilla,
And they said I’m too light to be Caramel,
So they told me I could be a Peach.
She stared deep into cumulous eyes,
Told me she never wanted to hear that again.
I didn’t understand why it made her so mad,
Thought she just didn’t like peaches,
Maybe if I said banana or kiwi,
She’d hug me,
Be proud of me.
I couldn’t understand the struggles
of having loved
a white man,
Society’s black- sheep- shepherd,
Shearing blind passion from my father’s cotton ball hide,
I wasn’t there when family called him, Cracker,
Reduced love they shared,
To a snack food,
I wasn’t there for public stares,
When my father’s fingers wrapped around hers,
Turned stomachs like the squishy gold
goop painted across lunch tables.
My mother showed me who I am
A mix of soulful lips and squinty-eyed smiles,
Defined by more than hybrid skin,
Syrupy mush crammed into can of society’s perception,
An afternoon snack,
Feeding ridicule,
My mother covered my ears to children’s too-loud snickers
of how his parents don’t match,
Like soulful lips and squinty eyes.
My mother built pride under
the sounds of mid-week blues,
So that her color pains,
Wouldn’t become my own.

Last updated October 07, 2022