Image by Ravi Patel

WASH YOUR MOUTH

morgan flodman

Papi tells me to wash my mouth. At home, Mom reminds me this is his way of telling me to brush my teeth. At church, this is a ritual. You cannot mistranslate a ritual. Submerge the barriers of language. The tongue of the spirit is not the King’s English, but rather the Handmaid’s Spanish. Be it done to me according to your word.
 

Papi tells me to wash my mouth. There is no plaque on my teeth. The plaque is on my soul, for a mute tongue is a petri dish squirming with sin. I lust for the Latin lover. I bear false witness against myself by letting the people call me a Spanish girl. I covet my neighbor’s goods—the rice boiling next door, the pigeon peas taking flight through the thin walls of the apartment. If I knew how to pray, I would ask God to pardon my disgrace. To let me serve Him the way He created me to. I would honor my mother as well as my father, switching between the Irish Catholic confessional and the mass Pentecostal exorcism where my people drive out the devil with their sacred speech.
 

Papi tells me to wash my mouth. Remove the tattered blanket and cleanse me of my sins. Baptize me in the name of my father, who stands before me, spritzing water with a Dollar Tree spray bottle over my whitish brownish face. I smell the cream that will gunk up my hair—my soft baloney curls that lack the kinks of my Afro-Caribbean roots. In a world we’re commanded not to love, but expected to conform, I murmur as I wake in the darkness of my ignorance, Dios mío, Dios mío, why have You forsaken me?

Morgan Flodman is a writer from Cherry Valley, Massachusetts. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Augment Review, Ice Lolly Review, love letters magazine, and The Qualia Review among others. Having been raised in white suburban culture, Morgan uses literature to connect to her Puerto Rican heritage. She especially loves the memoirs of Esmeralda Santiago. When she's not overanalyzing her drafts or researching her roots, Morgan enjoys helping fellow young writers find their craft and promoting the literary arts in her community. She tweets @morganfwrites

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