Steven Sanchez

After Bobby Jindal Posed as White in his Portrait
by Steven Sanchez

Standing before this stranger,
I become the silhouette

of a fair-faced man who doesn’t exist;
I am a dark spot in the middle of the sun

whose brightness surrounds and haunts
me wherever I go, even inside

my own home where my eyes adjust
to light’s absence by summoning black floaters

to hover between me and my body,
to obstruct my vision and consume

my skin. They seem to never leave
but settle in melanin like smoke

trapped inside a glass candle jar,
the wick extinguished. Like me,

did this stranger lather his arms and face
with a bottle’s worth of skin lightening

lotion, an attempt to make
eye contact with his own reflection?

In this self-portrait, his straight-
legged shadow undermines

his casually bent knee.
Beyond this frame, I imagine

the rest of it sprawled across marble
steps, pinned against alabaster pillars,

kicked by shuffling feet, unable to rise
from the scorching concrete.

Did he, too, learn to survive
by avoiding eye contact, by staring

at the ground and watching
his feet enveloped by the shade

of kids taller and paler than him?
Like me, did he believe his skin

color came from the dirt,
impossible to scrub away?

There’s strange comfort in steam
fogged over a mirror where,

for a few moments, my body
may be exchanged for a foggy

silhouette. Or, I can press
my palm against warm glass, wipe

the mirror clean, and feel heat
rise from my own reflection.

 

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 18, Issue 2.

Steven SanchezSteven Sanchez is a Lambda Literary Fellow, a CantoMundo Fellow, and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from California State University, Fresno. His poems have previously appeared or are forthcoming in Crab Creek Review, Word Riot, Nimrod, and Tahoma Literary Review, among others. He currently teaches at Fresno City College.

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