Dominican Day Parade, New York City, August 13th, 2023

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What is a flag?

A piece of paper tucked into your wallet?

A strip of fabric that hangs proudly on your wall?

The front dash of your car?

Or is it the kind of fabric that you’ve never

Touched 

Before and for a lifetime 

Didn’t even recognize

My flag is one that I’ve never owned

Not really

Not until I bought one for 10 dollars 

On the street

From a woman who could’ve been my grandmother 

My fumbling Spanglish the only proof 

Of my heritage

When I got out the station

I saw so many people 

In red blue white

With hair like mine but not mine

Skin like mine but not mine

Spanish like mine but not mine

And as their eyes glazed past me

I thought

I’m one of you

Can you see it?

From passing floats

The bursts of merengue and dembow sang to me

To wrap the red blue white around my shoulders 

Feel its weight for the first time

And I grabbed onto each end like a girl

Who doesn’t know what to do with her hands

And then I danced.

And suddenly these people 

With their hair like mine and not mine

Skin like mine and not mine

Spanish like mine and not mine

Were my people

I didn’t realize I had people.

And my people are beautiful. 

They’re so fucking beautiful

And I’m so fucking devastated

That I never knew

They didn’t tell me

What this flag tied me to

Who this flag tied me to

That I had a claim to this flag at all

And I fall

And it catches me

Rooting me to a homeland 

I’m beginning to call home

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