Sara Triana Mitchell

Sunday Evening, I Watch my Daughters

Sunday evening, I watch my daughters collect toads in a box in the front yard with the neighbor kids.

Are they yours?
Do people ask if they’re your kids?
Where did the blonde hair come from?
Did you have blonde hair?
It’s crazy to see you with them, you just don’t expect that.
You look like opposites.
Why are they white and you’re hispanic?
Aren’t you hispanic?
Are you latin?
How’d you get two little blondies?
How’d you get two little white girls?

Sunday evening, I think about the times we are the toads in the box.

at the barber shop
            the grocery store

we leave

our house

We are silent as we are studied, poked we try to hop out.
Do toads smile? I do. I can’t find the right words.
I do not like boxes.

Like me, the little one plows through peanut butter and chocolate
and here’s the spot under my arm
where her sister slept for two straight years.

If they could see that
there would be no further questions.
They belong to me and I have belonged to them.

Most of the time, I don’t know what I look like
which box to check.
Where is the box for

strangers are friendlier to me when they see my kids?
I am the brownest of all of my cousins.
            I am white.

So many things have been lost in assimilation:
the steps to the dances
a whole language
a tether to a place
a box to check.

Some things have been found:
the tamale recipe
a world of people braided together
from different stories different places

We are what happens
when the boxes collapse
when bridges tie us together
when homelands are set on fire.

I like everything about me
I like everything about my daughters
every blonde hair on their heads.

If I, like a toad, never had to smile, I would request:
Let’s stop greeting each other’s
Stop checking for papers
and remember how we belong
to each other.

Tomorrow, I’ll say:
just last week my firstborn saw my mother out on the deck
standing in the rain (in wonder) and she never asked why
just wordlessly ran for the umbrella, opened the back door
handed it to nana and came back inside
glowing with a secret smile.

Now can’t you tell she’s mine?
My little toad.