Xiomara Batista Quotes in The Poet X
The other girls call me conceited. Ho. Thot. Fast.
When your body takes up more room than your voice
you are always the target of well-aimed rumors,
which is why I let my knuckles talk for me.
Which is why I learned to shrug when my name was replaced
I look at her scarred knuckles.
I know exactly how she was taught
Their gazes and words
are heavy with all the things
they want you to be.
It is ungrateful to feel like a burden.
It is ungrateful to resent my own birth.
I know that Twin and I are miracles.
Aren’t we reminded every single day?
And I get all this attention from guys
but it’s like a sancocho of emotions.
This stew of mixed-up ingredients:
partly flattered they think I’m attractive,
partly scared they’re only interested in my ass and boobs,
and a good measure of Mami-will-kill-me fear sprinkled on top.
What if I like a boy too much
and none of those things happen...
they’re the only scales I have.
How does a girl like me figure out the weight
of what it means to love a boy?
“Good girls don’t wear tampones.
Are you still a virgin? Are you having relations?”
I didn’t know how to answer her, I could only cry.
She shook her head and told me to skip church that day.
Threw away the box of tampons, saying they were for cueros.
That she would buy me pads. Said eleven was too young.
That she would pray on my behalf.
I didn’t understand what she was saying.
But I stopped crying. I licked at my split lip.
I prayed for the bleeding to stop.
what’s the point of God giving me life
if I can’t live it as my own?
Why does listening to his commandments
mean I need to shut down my own voice?
The poet talks about being black, about being a woman,
about how beauty standards make it seem she isn’t pretty.
I don’t breathe for the entire three minutes
while I watch her hands, and face,
feeling like she’s talking directly to me.
She’s saying the thoughts I didn’t know anyone else had.
We’re different, this poet and I. In looks, in body,
in background. But I don’t feel so different
when I listen to her. I feel heard.
I just needed people saying words
about all the things that hurt them.
And maybe this is why Papi stopped listening to music,
because it can make your body want to rebel. To speak up.
And even that young I learned music can become a bridge
between you and a total stranger.
“And about this apple,
how come God didn’t explain
why they couldn’t eat it?
He gave Eve curiosity
but didn’t expect her to use it?
Unless the apple is a metaphor?
Is the whole Bible a poem?
What’s not a metaphor?
Did any of it actually happen?
And I knew then what I’d known since my period came:
my body was trouble. I had to pray the trouble out
of the body God gave me. My body was a problem.
And I didn’t want any of these boys to be the ones to solve it.
I wanted to forget I had this body at all.
When I was little
Mami was my hero.
But then I grew breasts
and although she was always extra hard on me,
her attention became something else,
like she wanted to turn me
into the nun
she could never be.
He grins at me and shrugs. “I came here and practiced a lot.
My pops never wanted to put me in classes. Said it was too soft.”
And now his smile is a little sad.
And I think about all the things we could be
if we were never told our bodies were not built for them.
I don’t yell how the whole block whispers
when I walk down the street
about all the women
who made a cuero out of him.
But men are never called cueros.
I’ll be anything that makes sense
of this panic. I’ll loosen myself from this painful flesh.
See, a cuero is any skin. A cuero
is just a covering. A cuero is a loose thing.
Tied down by no one. Fluttering
and waving in the wind. Flying. Flying. Gone.
“I’m sorry I got in trouble.
I’m sorry I have to be here.
That I have to pretend to you and her
that I care about confirmation at all.
But I’m not sorry I kissed a boy.
I’m only sorry I was caught,
Or that I had to hide it at all.”
But even business deals are promises.
And we still married in a church.
And so I never walked away from him
although I tried my best to get back
to my first love.
And confirmation is the last step I can give you.
I can’t remember
the last time people were silent
while I spoke, actually listening.
Not since Aman.
But it’s nice to know I don’t need him
in order to feel listened to.
My little words
feel important, for just a moment.
This is a feeling I could get addicted to.
I actually raise my hand
in English class
and answer Ms. Galiano’s question.
Because at least here with her,
I know my words are okay.
Because so many of the poems tonight
felt a little like our own stories.
Like we saw and were seen.
And how crazy would it be
if I did that for someone else?
And I know that I’m ready to slam.
That my poetry has become something I’m proud of.
The way the words say what I mean,
how they twist and turn language,
how they connect with people.
How they build community.
I lay it across my wrist
and cinch the clasps closed.
Her daughter on one side,
myself on the other.
I have no more poems. My mind blanks.
A roar tears from my mouth.
“Burn it! Burn it.
This is where the poems are,” I say,
thumping a fist against my chest.
“Will you burn me? Will you burn me, too?
You would burn me, wouldn’t you, if you could?”
She puts a soft hand on my arm
and I look into the face of a woman
not much older than me,
a woman with a Spanish last name,
who loves books and poetry,
who I notice for the first time is pretty,
who has a soft voice and called my house
because she was worried
and the words are out before I know it:
And so, I love this quote because even though it’s not about poetry, it IS about poetry. It’s about any of the words that bring us together and how we can form a home in them.