Abuela sweeps her hair back Ties it up Soy fea. I am ugly. She says. Such a common refrain. I watch her hands Weathered, but unwrinkled Her fingers chorus A more ancient verse Of waters pulled By an invisible moon Onto a sand formally known as Unknown Formally known as Hispanola Formally known as Ayiti These hands They sing for days longer Than her words Of the epic called Morena. Black. We used to have Good hair Esta familia. This family. She says. Such an unusual instruction. Stay out of the sun. But the sun is where I play. Marry a white woman. But my sisters are morenas. For your babies. For the hair. But I delight in my waves. She tries to erase herself Powdering her chest Her hands laugh at her Controlled but undefeated With the divine wrapped in all their color As we go They hold me. When I cross the street When we go to buy plantains When we smash them. Fry them. Guiding my cursive, when I learn to write. And when I say my prayers Searching for God. - R.R. Tavárez * Photo by Nsey Benajah.
The Epic of la Morena won second place in the 2021 Dyer-Ives Poetry competition.