“One of the Good Ones” & “How Can You Write Revolution if Palenqueras Still Pose for Pesos” by Jenzo DuQue


Illustration: white, manicured, bejeweled hands reach across water to take coconut with a straw from brown hands with bandaids

One of the Good Ones

I waited sixteen weeks for colonial remnants
                        To tell me I’m pretty

Te cu eme (tqm)/ Te quemé 🔥
       LOLemos en dos idiomas

Surely I’m not alone in wanting a bowl
Of fascism’s ashes for breakfast

Hey me in twenty years
are we still blinded
by that fog
of self indulgence
Or do I see clearly
between
The spaces separating
One decayed cage bar
From its neighbor

Not that we’d ever find ourselves
In someone else’s shoes

Like the lowly
essential worker
facing a maskless patron
In stores now so
conveniently vacant

I’m not here with you
You’re here with me
When I’m not here with you
I’m seventeen
stabbing lit cigarettes
Into my wrists
I’m rehearsing
the closing lines
of my memoir:
He was one
of the good ones
                As though it were question of effort
                Rather than design that displaced us

How Can You Write Revolution if Palenqueras Still Pose for Pesos

why is it that no matter the nation
color or creed sanded beaches bear
colonial tongues have usurped its grains
and displaced our history’s shade
still spilling from the firmament

i have never set foot on a coastline
where the tanned palms of its poorest
didn’t try to sell me something:
twisted braids with which we scale
the heights of disenfranchisement
machete-scarred coconuts whose
wet mouths agape reek of milk and rum
shellfish buckets brined in the same salt
water that spanish galleon’s kissed
as they grazed the shoulders
of sleeping peoples now seized

just like the off-duty palenquera
gliding oil along my arms
while a white sun descends
on the caribbean winter
cartagena is rich with mystery
who built these walls (lest we forget)
who maintains the ancients
did they know that their likeness
would become tourists’ delights
and when they sang of resistance
was it to the tune of tokenized
souvenirs to travel guides
or could it have been survival
that compelled freed slaves
barred from dignified life
to don baskets and jewelry
to carry the labor’s colorful fruits
atop their heads for y’all to see

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Jenzo DuQue was born into a Colombian community in Chicago and is based in Brooklyn. He received his MFA from Brooklyn College, where he served as an editor of the Brooklyn Review. Jenzo is an emerging writer and graphic artist, with pieces that have appeared in One Story, Joyland, and Glimmer Train. Read more at jenzoduque.com

Sara Rubin is an illustrator and video maker living in Los Angeles. Formerly an Executive Producer at BuzzFeed, she now enjoys bringing fantastical scenes and creatures to life through her artwork. Find her @sweetestsara on Twitter and @saraerubin on Instagram.