Zalena Su’e

A Public Service Announcement from Your Token Brown Girl

My melanin will not be your statistic,
                                                                             your free pass,
                                                                                                           your brown card.
Don’t put me in your counterfeit memories
As if we came from the same place –
As if you nicked your fingers on tiny sugar cane needles from Grandpa’s plantation,
As if you grew up eating spaghetti-o’s in paper bowls at my mom’s countertop,
As if you cried with me when we lost Queen Aretha, King Michael, and Prince.

I won’t be your pat on the back,
Your gold star sticker,
I refuse to be your good deed of the day –
Your charity case.  

This melanin in my skin
                                                                    belongs to me
                                                                                                      And she knows that.    

Borrowed Nationalism
After Martin Espada  

Tattoo the American flag on my shoulder
because maybe then I’ll know what it’s like to bleed for this country.
Carve the anthem into the backs of my knees –
so that I’ll remember our nation in prayer.
Burn every stripe and star onto my spine
And maybe –
I will stand taller when my right hand grips my shirt pocket.

My Little Brother

My little brother is no longer little.
He doesn’t like it when I call him “babe”
Or when I fix the fold of his collar.
He won’t ask me to bake pani popo anymore.

Fluffy dinner rolls drenched in sweet coconut cream –
Our mom would buy two pans from Stevens’ bakery on the west side.
She always gave my little brother an extra bun so that
We wouldn’t have to watch his dimples droop.  

I learned how to form the pearls of dough between my palms,
How to nip the ends together - stretch, pull, pinch.
Swirls of raw sugar enveloped in fresh coconut cream –
The rolls should be golden-topped and swimming in white bubbling lava

My little brother is no longer little.
He doesn’t want warm pani popo,
Or homemade hugs anymore.
He won’t ask me for either.  

About the author: Zalena Su'e, a twenty-one year old college student, was born and raised in American Samoa, a small island in the South Pacific. Her poetry is heavily influenced and inspired by her family and her culture. When she's not writing, she's playing her ukulele and sipping iced coffee. This is her first publication.