Purifying America’s Textbooks of Ethnic Studies

dan-vera-ethnic-studies-speaking-wiri-wiri

We’ll start with the gold of Havana’s women,
who hearing you needed money for your revolutionary war
offered their wedding rings and necklaces,
to be melted,
to finance your white-wigged revolution
that was so very bold
but so very poor.
The skeleton of José Moñino y Redondo
has come to take it all back.
No muskets for you.
No cannons, no cannon balls,
no gunpowder, no bombs or mortars,
no clothes for your freezing soldier sons.
I’m afraid that bitter winter in Valley Forge
will end quite differently now.

While we’re at it, we take back the help of our ancestors,
Bernardo de Galvez, Fernando de Leyba, and the thousands
of men with surnames that so displease you now,
who repelled the British in Florida and Louisiana,
who secured your flimsy Western borders
and marched to win your battles for you
in Indiana and Michigan and Missouri
before there was an Indiana or a Michigan, or a Missouri.

Hearing the commotion
Francisco Saavédra de Sangronis has stirred in his Andalusian grave
demanding that while you’re purifying the record
you return the half a million dollars in silver
that he collected in 24 hours
to fund your great final victory in Yorktown.

We will help you purify the record
but our ancestors insist on retroactively removing themselves from your history.
And being a bit weak on your own history as you are
you may find the parting very hard to take.

From Speaking Wiri Wiri. Reprinted by permission of Red Hen Press.

Dan Vera is a writer, editor, and literary historian living in Washington, DC. He is the author of the poetry collection The Space Between Our Danger and Delight (Beothuk Books, 2008), and the editor of the gay culture journal White Crane. His second collection, Speaking Wiri Wiri, was the inaugural winner of the Letras Latinas/Red Hen Poetry Prize. His poetry has appeared in various journals including Notre Dame Review, Beltway Poetry, Delaware Poetry Review, Cutthroat, Gargoyle, the anthologies Divining Divas, Full Moon On K Street: Poems About Washington, DC, and DC Poets Against the War. He’s the co-creator of the literary history site, DC Writers’ Homes, and on the board of Split This Rock.