"BROWN" | A written piece by Noelia Cerna.
It happens when she enters the van. Typical, soccer mom van. Suburban staple.
Her white boss is driving, while she and three white coworkers discuss the day.
As the conversation ebbs and flows she sits, looking out the window, watching
the city roll by suddenly aware she is the only brown girl in this space.
It is not a feeling of fear that fills her chest but one of sadness.
Suddenly longing to look back and catch a flash of brown
or black skin amongst the sea of white. She walks past the storefronts trailing her party,
locked in the Central US.
The door to the restaurant opens and the beat of the latino music
wafts out with the smells of meat and cooking onions, Spanish words
surround her and she steps into this home.
The cooks are all brown. They turn the carne on the fire
as they dance to the music and laugh.
It is loud and warm and smells like a fritanga.
Brightly colored banners hang in rows spreading across the ceiling
the colors warm and inviting. They remind her of the open air markets
where the brightly colored shirts hang throughout tents
and the smell of cooking meat wafts between the aisles
as the street vendors call out to the passersby to enter their stores
Wicker lanterns are spaced across the ceiling mingling with the colored banners
they sway with the breeze casting shadows below
twinkling in the dark room like a mother's prayers in the night
as two parents prepare themselves to bring two little girls to the promised land
hoping they would not forget the histories in their skin.
Laughing with her white coworkers the brown girl bites into her carne asada street tacos
letting the flavor fill her mouth and Narciso Yepes playing Romance wafts through her mind
reminding her of a time she was a little girl and her father
would serenade her with his Spanish guitar
and her curly hair was beautiful, and her brown skin was beautiful
and she remembers what it feels like to be proud of who she is
so she rides back to the office looking out the window, smiling
and when she reaches her desk pulls the scrunchy out of her hair fluffs it
into a frizzy mass of curls lets it hang loose around her shoulders
puts her headphones in and ends the day with Narciso
with wild hair, brilliant smile, looking like the little girl her parents raised.
ARTIST STATEMENT | Noelia Cerna
I am Noelia Cerna. I believe the purpose of my poetry is to discuss the hardships of life with genuine honesty while highlighting the resilience that we all have to not only survive the most horrific things but to do so powerfully in order to help heal those that go through the same hardships after us. I hope in all of my poetry people can find both an honest assessment of the world as I see it, myself and also a ray of hope that no matter what happens that we can come out of anything stronger and far more beautiful than we could have ever imagined.
A B O U T | Noelia Cerna
Noelia Cerna is a Latina poet based in Fayetteville, AR. She was born in Costa Rica and immigrated to the United States at the age of 7 and received a Bachelor’s degree in English from Westminster College in Missouri. She is currently working on a book of poems discussing the experience of being a first generation immigrant and a book of essays about the Arkansas prison system. Noelia is a reader and poetry feedback editor for Tinderbox Poetry Journal, a writing mentor for Pen America’s Prison Writing Mentorship program, the new Board President of the Ozark Poets and Writers Collective and an Associate Editor with Sibling Rivalry Press.
Publication Credit: Brown is forthcoming in The North Meridian Review.