Hillary Says,

They changed our name at Ellis Island.

Before this, her name meant rosary, 

meant beaded benevolence, meant prayer 

for children who were nothing 

but fiction and bolts of fabric.

 

Before this bar, before a chilled glass

of vinho verde, before Hillary’s needled 

skin, before boys told us we look Jewish,

look ethnic, look at our bodies like 

broken boats, before we made bracelets 

from their barbs, before we wore 

each other’s laughter, before I say, 

we should go roller skating soon,

before Hillary examines me like she might

her old name, a relic salvaged and shined, 

before cigarette smoke leaves her 

smile like emptying fog—

 

a woman in our lineage dreamed us,

brown-haired and mouthy, unruly and

brash, stubborn and starry-drunk. Some girl

on a Sicilian coastline crossed her fingers, pulled 

splinters from her children’s children’s skin, 

washed our names like church clothes, broke 

dishes, a sweat, bread, begged and scrubbed 

and stitched her stubborn hope inside the lining 

of every coffin she watched sink with her kin.

 

Imagine this girl imagining us—combat 

boots, nose hoops, ski slope lashes, 

brow lines thick as night, fixed as our faith. 

 

Someone calls for Hillary, then shots,

and I am two bottles too deep to drive

myself to sleep. I stand, then sway

like a ship flag announcing our people’s 

arrival. Our people—buoyed only 

by the intoxicating possibility 

 

of us.

What are you looking for?