I recommend the poetic novel The Poet X, an amazing work by Elizabeth Acevedo!
There are no chapters, only poems. The poems are about Xiomara Batista, a curvy young woman who uses her brawn to do the talking. Yet at home, she has nothing to say. More like she can’t say anything. She has no time to express herself. Her mother’s reign of the church is what keeps her quiet. Being told that her modesty is what’s important. Yet all she can do is write her feelings through poems. In her secret leather notebook, her feelings are heard.
Every poem is an essential piece to Xiomara’s story. Some of her poems talk about her twin brother, Xavier, her mother, her father, and her friend Caridad. Other poems explore being a Hispanic curvy woman. While others discuss expectations for women, church, school, her ongoing issues with family, her crush, and poetry slam friends.
Five poems really stood out to me. I cannot wait to share these with you. Each poem has a meaning behind it. I will briefly explain the significance of each. Please go check out The Poet X for more poetry.
“I am unhide-able/ Taller than even my father, with what Mami has always said/ was “a little too much body for such a young girl.”/ I am the baby fat that settled into D-cups and swinging hips/ so that the boys who called me a whale in middle school/ now ask me to send them pictures of myself in a thong//
The other girls call me conceited. Ho. Thot. Fast./ When your body takes up more room than your voice/ you are always the target of well-aimed rumors,/ which is why I let my knuckles talk for me./ Which is why I learned to shrug when my name was replaced/by insults.//
I’ve forced my skin just as thick as I am.”
“Unhide-able” is about Xiomara’s appearance. People perceive her a certain way based on how she looks. Rather than her personality or how she sees the world. Their neighborhood sees her this way and so does her mom. She didn’t ask to be judged for what she has. So she makes sure she can protect herself.
“It’s not any one thing/ that makes me wonder/ about the capital G.O.D.//
About a holy trinity/ that don’t include the mother./ It’s all the things.//
Just seems as I got older/I began to really see/the way that church//
treats a girl like me differently./ Sometimes it feels/ all I’m worth is under my skirt//
and not between my ears./ Sometimes I feel/that turning the other check//
could get someone like my brother killed./Sometimes I feel/ my life would be easier/ if I didn’t feel like such a debt/ to a God/ that don’t really seem//
to be our here checking for me.”
In this poem, “God” Xiomara questions the purpose of her belief. She has been taught by her Mom to worship this being. However, she questions if God can help her at all. Based on the beliefs of the church she sees God as a symbol to control her actions and appearance.
The Last Word on Being Born to Old Parents
“You will learn to hate it.//
No one, not even your twin brother,/ will understand the burden/you feel because of your birth;//
your mother has sight for nothing/but you two and God;/ your father seems to be serving/ a penance, an oat of solitary silence.//
Their gazes and words/are heavy with all the things/they want you to be.//
It is ungrateful to feel like a burden./ It is ungrateful to resent my own birth./I know that Twin and I are miracles.//
Aren’t we reminded every single day?”
“The Last Word on Being Born to Old Parents” discusses the heavy burden Xiomara carries. She feels that her birth is only an inconvenience. Her mom focuses on God and her. Xiomara doesn’t feel good enough. Despite the blessing of being born, based on her family’s expectations, she feels trapped.
Caridad and I Shouldn’t Be Friends
“We are not two sides of the same coin./ We are not ever mistaken for sisters.//
We don’t look alike, don’t sound alike./We don’t make no damn sense as friends.//
I curse up a storm and am always ready to knuckle up./ Caridad recites bible verses and promotes peace.//
I’m ready to finally feel what it’s like to like a boy./ Caridad want to wait for marriage.//
I’m afraid of my mother so I listen to what she says./ Caridad genuinely respects her parents.//
I should hate Caridad. She’s all my parents want in a daughter./ She’s everything I could never be.//
But Caridad, Twin, and I have known each other since diapers./ We celebrate birthdays together, attend Bible//
camp sleepovers with each other, spend Christmas Eve/ at each other’s houses.”
“Caridad and I Shouldn’t Be Friends” is a comparison of Xiomara and Caridad. They are the complete opposite when it comes to values and goals. Xiomara feels out of place with her family yet Caridad is the perfect candidate. Their friendship seems unlikely, yet they are childhood friends.
Things You Think About in the Split Second Your Notebook is Burning
“If I were on fire/who could I count on/ to water me down?//
If I were a pile of ashes/who could I count on/ to gather me in a pretty urn?//
If I were nothing but dust/ would anyone chase the wind/ trying to piece me back together?”
This final poem is a metaphor. Xiomara is seeing herself as a notebook. She wonders if someone will care enough during her worst moment. This can be seen as a representation of death or her voice being burned.
These five poems are only a sliver of what’s in store. Check out The Poet X, explore more of her poetry.
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