When you study acting as a biracial girl in the South,
you will never portray Scarlett O’Hara,
only ever Mammy
because your program head does not think “protagonist”
when she sees a mulatto.
You are an accessory, like the dogwoods that dot a plantation.
Bleaching cream is not expensive becomes your chant
as you wait in line at the drugstore
on a July night when your high yellow complexion
browns below the florescent lights.
“It’s all in your head, your nappy, nappy head,” says Mom
as she ruffles your black curly hair,
but she’s whiter than you even thought God made white
because she’s whiter than bleached opossum bones.
This woman is your mother not for her skin but for her blood.
That is, the blood of the Scots-Irish who defeated the British
and wrestled wolves and brown bears out of Appalachia,
while your father’s people battled bolls in the cotton fields,
rising up to overseers when picking cut up their hands and souls.
You read scripts and fall in love with characters not written for you,
only it takes you two and a half years to realize it.
Then you lock eyes with a needle
and, after one night of passion with a sewing machine,
decide to design costumes.
Costumes are an icon, you tell yourself, because everyone remembers
what Liz Taylor wore in Cleopatra
and how Dorothy dressed in The Wizard of Oz.
They remember and they don’t mind whose fingers do the work.
Porcelain fingers, mahogany fingers, or high yellow fingers.
This was the role written for me, the half-breed in the back.
Christine Stoddard is a Salvadoran-Scottish-American writer and artist who lives in Brooklyn. Her writings have appeared in Marie Claire, The Feminist Wire, Bustle, Teen Vogue, The Huffington Post, Ravishly, So to Speak, Jimson Weed, and beyond. In 2014, Folio Magazine named her one of the top 20 media visionaries in their 20s for founding Quail Bell Magazine. Christine also is the author of Hispanic & Latino Heritage in Virginia (The History Press), Ova (Dancing Girl Press, 2017), and two miniature books from the Poems-For-All series.