— Joe Navarro

As a young child I thought
I was an unhyphenated American
I was John Wayne, growing
Into my role, a real-American
Transitioning to a teen, who
Grew up in the other-America
Becoming the other-American
Whose life was consumed in
Survivalist strategies, where poverty
Was one welfare check away from
Extinction, where hue mattered
In slums on the other side
Of humanity, where I
Became a hue-American
As American as tacos, frijoles
And cornbread, with a scent
Of Apple pie on the tip of my tongue

That was before I became a
Conscious-American, where
Consciousness begged the question,
Why hast thou forsaken me, America?
Then I became an Angry-American
A Mexican-American who sat
At the back of the bus
Contemplating racism, discrimination,
Ghettos, barrios, poverty and oppression
Then I became so angry at injustice
I had been accused of being un-American
Cursing in English and español at Klansmen
Wrapped snugly in stars-and-stripes
Devotion to yesterday, and slave-owning
Presidents, and institutions that constructed
Glass ceilings, while thumbing their
Noses at drowning aspirations
As they taunted…Prove it

That’s when I became an analytical-American
Asking all the complex whys about a
Complex mega society that is America
Wondering what makes me look foreign to
Them, wondering what type of American
I am with so many hyphens,
I have evolved into a multi-hyphenated
American, navigating the social hyphens
That I’ve inherited from the
Socially constructed legacy defining
All Americans, every
American is hyphenated, from
The moment of birth to the
Last breath that extinguishes life

Let me see if I can avoid the
Tangles of hyphens as I describe
Myself: American; real-American; other-
American; hue-American; conscious-
American; angry-American; anti-
American; analytical-American; Chicano-
Mexicano-Indigenous-La Raza-Bilingual-
A multi-hyphenated-American…
Orale, that’s who I am
Month of the reading: October

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