My dad got remarried when I was ten.
To a woman whose hugs smelled like three shots of tequila before church,
we lived in a cracked window, bug baited, squeaky apartment
on the west side of Humboldt park.
We lived off of Banquet frozen dinners,
And I was the only girl in second grade who didn’t want to live in Palace.
While Chicago summers drooped against unpaid parking tickets,
and elote men shuffled down pothole scarred streets,
we ran down broken staircases that held everything cracked about our family.
There were always Kings outside our place.
They used to knock on our door at night
while gliding their cocaine stained fingers through
broken door knobs and steel barred windows
as house wives checked for cracked out crowns.
They would pick the gated locks of our security,
while four boys on a corner gulped down gunshots
because they were too young to know the difference
between throwing the crown up or down.
They say he married her in unity of black and gold.
while I walked the streets with a weighted backpack
full of gang colors and street tags hidden in
between a pale complexion of
too feisty for a white girl
and not fluent enough to be a Latina.
The corner boys said I looked like King Blanco,
asking if I was a queen.
But I’ve spent hours watching spray paint dry
and repainting brick walls in my head.
I’ve spent years inside during sagging summers
wishing for silent nights rather than hushed fireworks.
I’ve spent a lifetime denying my family dynasty while cops patrolled the streets
because my eyes reflect jailhouse tattoos.
I’m not a queen.
I was born into a bloodline of thugs tugging at heartstrings
while neighbors overdosed overnight,
I don’t seem them much anymore.
Dad told us kids to stay inside
while dealers bruised brick walls with
fists of father and guardian gunshots,
but he never fixed the gate.
Never cut off of the connections with Kings,
but cut off the connection with me—
I’m sixteen now.
And I no longer carry black and gold in my backpack.
The corner boys stopped asking what I was,
because I don’t go there much anymore.
I stopped ringing the broken buzzer of my dad’s apartment once
he taught my brother how to slip and slide through the depths of the Kings.
The corner boys call him I name I don’t know while
He guards our territory for hours and
The only thing we share now is eye shape and blood type.
I don’t see him anymore.
I was given the birthright to run these corners,
But I’m ending this family dynasty.
The idea of this monarchy
reminds of poverty and slashed out property,
I belong somewhere else now.
Somewhere far away from these crooked corners,
Somewhere that doesn’t feel like a placeholder for forgotten promises.
Where I can replace tequila and banquet meals with something beautiful,
Throw down this crown,
And strip black and gold to stop dying for this monarchy.
Wherever I go, I’ll be treated like royalty.
It’s a safety blanket on the west side,
But I will never be just a Queen anywhere else.