“When Angela Asks Me a Question,” a poem by Antonio Lopez

Antonio Lopez

When Angela Asks Me a Question

—for my hermanita when she loses hope in school

You’re armed   with a non-toxic shade
that bleeds through Xeroxed sheets—the wicked clones
of an English textbook.

Office Depot-issued holster
of highlight markers take aim
at the 12 PT tremor.

“Hey Tony, sorry to bother you.
But what is this asking?”

Thirty dollar uñas         gloss over the district’s wear-
and-tear, tattered curricula that can’t clothe
Spanish surnames,
so you acrylic-coat the cold call
of imposter syndrome

(where the brown girl calls herself         into question
‘Am I smart enough?’). Verdadera disease
that drills a pull-yourself-by-the-huaraches        

And so when you say,
“I want to take AP,
because a lot of us aren’t there,”

Quiero decirte,
ay serpent-hair’d lámpara,

según soy a man of letters
—diploma dictó mi docto.
Yet when your shadow pours over
my cocina-side study,    en socorro,
tus lágrimas threaten to melt
my inked flesh.

I’ve seen so many barrio kids,
drown in the brown resin
of a school-desk.

No quiero que eso pase a tí.

Mi’ja, I am no brain expert,
but hear my neurology.

An unnerved bridge,
afraid of its own weight,
cannot learn.  

But yours         is a sleepless varnish.
I’ve seen you pave synaptic floorboards
in the candlewaxed night.

Tethered between adobe slabs
and skyscraped streets, where I daydream
where your pastry shop will be.

See these hands, callused from junior high
writing line detentions? Tómelas, y let’s walk
across your mente hermosa

where the splinters are so soft,
you can walk barefoot.

Raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Antonio Lopez received a double B.A. in Global Cultural Studies (Literature) and African-American studies from Duke University (Class of 2016). He’s an inaugural John Lewis Fellow, and a recipient of Rudolph William Rosati Creative Writing. In 2017, he was awarded the Lucille Clifton Memorial Scholarship to attend the 47th annual Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. His nonfiction has been featured in PEN/America and his poetry in After Happy Hour Review, Cosmonauts Avenue, storySouth, Acentos Review, Sinking City, Permafrost, Track//Four, HEArt Magazine, and elsewhere. He is currently finishing an M.F.A. in poetry at Rutgers University-Newark. As a 2018 Marshall Scholar, he will then pursue a Master in Philosophy in Modern Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Oxford.

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