Saturday Poem


The lady’s British accent
was fake, years later it still
infuriates. Her Cambridge estate
had china, flush toilets, English lessons,
in exchange for chores she taught me to speak
in full sentences, cured me of my accent,
a colored girl’s dream, room and board.
She taught me to say what I mean,
though to this day she refuses
to hear what I mean.

Ah, but she’d been round
the world, photographing
revolutions, toasting with Daniel
Ortega, she knew what was best
for a spic like me, nightly I
recited Chaucer by the Greek
column and the peach tree.

Miss, you tap the porcelain teapot,
time for your nicotine fit,
poof smoke away from my
face but we’re in the
same windowless room.
All I wanted was the vote,
the right to remain silent,
now you call me ungrateful,
me, writing a new constitution
full of truth and bad grammar.

Trouble, trouble, educating
coloreds. Those years I picked
your tobacco and you botched
my lungs. You taught me to spell
trigger, now I’ve got your gun.
Run Jane run run run
Lady, dear lady,
the empire
is done.

by Demetria Martinez
El Coro
University of Massachusetts Press, 1997