a white Victorial house with a picket fence in East Austin

Poem: ‘Whitewashing’


A version of this story ran in the August 2016 issue.

With every stroke the white paint splatters back down
on me. It melts into my skin, Buelito’s coffee hands
pour more paint into my pail. He urges me to continue
painting our house. I ask him, Why

are you black? With a worn-out half smile,
he says, Guerito, my mother, she didn’t love me.
One day, when I was a baby, she forgot me
outside. I got burned up. That’s why
I’m not guerito like you.
Against his dark skin

his hazel eyes are lost. From his words, Someday we’ll be done,
laughter streams, like his blood, from him to me as we walk
around the white house. My soles settle
into his footprints. He pours gasoline
on my hands and shows me how it is best
used to cleanse the white paint from my skin.

[Featured image by Matthew Rutledge]