When your boyfriend sits you at the dinner table don’t flinch
as they pass plates of disapproval,
Remind yourself that dinner is just show and tell.
Parade through their questioning,
Exhale slowly at every glance.
This is a test passed down through generations of first impressions.
Swallow down his aunt’s criticism at your outfit.
You are just a meal for their gossip.
Impress them with the little you know of their home,
Do not consider yourself traitor,
Pledging allegiance to a family that will not offer you asylum on their land.
When he remains silent as your race is escorted into conversation,
hold your head up.
Like Abuela does on days when she prays for more sunshine than rain,
They will squeal and name their favorite novela.
Turn Santiago into an amusement park,
Tell you all the times they ate rice and beans.
Render up the memory of that one time,
they met some guy,
from some island,
that is not yours.
Exclaim how much they love West Side Story.
When your boyfriend tells you you’re sexy because you’re Dominican,
When you speak Spanish it does things to him,
Tell him that besando mano is not just a greeting
that Bendicion is a prayer.
Tell him that peeling a platano properly is a right of passage.
Tell him we cook family style,
in a big iron pot that covers the entire stove.
Tell him Papi’s favorite part of the rice
is con con.
Tell him you can smell a family reunion blocks away.
Tell him Abuela made extra patalito’s,
not de carne,
because those were our favorites.
Tell him Ma never let you leave the table without cleaning your plate.
When your boyfriend is not brave enough to whisper your name,
without guilt carved across his cheeks,
When everyone is trying to make a wife out of you,
before you make a woman of yourself.
When he sits at the dinner table only willing to claim you flame,
To be blown out,
Be your own happy ending.
When falling in love with men with bloodlines thick in apologies,
Remember you are foreigner.
Then dump his ass.
by Reena Alter