My Good Clothes / Middle School / 1998

— David Campos

Planchadito. Creased khakis. Tags remain

                          on shoes. Show them.

                          Tags remain on clothes.

Don’t show them.        Use tape.

                          Remember deodorant.

                          Wear an undershirt to prevent sweat from touching

                          what might be returned.

What might be returned

                          is the name of my preteen years,

                                                    my anxious shame still rattling

             years later.                     Hello

             is a fist bump.                                     This is called a pound.

Remember this flesh.                            Let go

             of hugs.            We’ll talk about toxic masucilinty another time.

                          Here, aint nobody give

                                       handshakes without flourish.

Here, there is a pattern                                     to the way fingers become

                          entangled in hellos.

                                                                 Someone tells me this may be gang related.

                                                                 My home-

                          room teacher says this is

                                       true. Now, I know the difference

in power structures.                                This is how they ban

                          my culture.      This is where they begin

                                       to criminalize even a hello

                                       and the baggy pants we wear

             sagged, dripping off our bodies

                          as metaphor for the ways in which we’re skinned.

What will be returned

                          is my culture for store credit.

                                                    I’ll learn to say English without an accent.

                                       Say predicate. Say subject.                  Say all of

                          this has gone in the wrong direction.

             How do I get home from white’s center?

                                                    How do I return

                                                                              and return to myself?

                          Hot Cheetos with lime?

                                                                 Running after the paletero?

                                       Dr. Dre? Eminem?                        Forget about me.

My name is buried in the way syllables are pronounced here.

                          DAY-VID       versus              DAH-VEED.

                          I have two names in this country.

                          I can only afford two shirts this semester.

I hand wash cold.

                          Color lasts longer this way.

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