I belong to the Midwest plains
California, North Dakota
porch swings on hot nights
playing basketball with my brother, my dad, not my mother
in the moonlight is where
I am home.

I belong to towering trees,
evergreens in Sierra Nevada foothills
make believing I am chasing down gold robbers
eating tortillas made of flour from brown hands
roses smelling sweet is where
I am home.

I don’t have friends at 2 or 3 or 4 years old,
my mom is emotional, too Mexican
my Dad is reserved, regular German,
Put that together, my brother and I are pure American
Is where I am from.

I belong in my olive skin, bronzed up in summer sun
Fair cousins, brown cousins,
I’m on the pink bike, banana seat, or just
Outside climbing trees, my brother and I dirty hands
is where I am home.

I sit on the front porch at night listening to the slams of
parents’ battling, don’t speak up
cherish your silence, or scream inside I educate myself
chocolate chip cookies freshly made and
my brother asleep, I’m still outside silenced
is where I am home.

I belong to church pews every Sunday
singing strongly
erasing all my sins
no shorts, only skirts, pink is best, I like blue
but red stains live in my tears is where
I am home.

My brother runs outside first to grab that blue skateboard
the hills of Nebraska are cherished
I hum little church songs to cast away demons
put on my shoes to follow my little brother
can’t hear her screaming, him silent or them angry
just me and my brother
adventures await is where I am home.

I belong to Abuela’s arms, kissing my cheeks and
Lavender wrists wrapping me in hugs
this tomboy now mija
the sauerkraut far away is where
I am home.

She is not too short and just right for love
she’s 4’10”, bundle of beauty
her laughter fills my heart, the mischief
she giggles too and I run to her side to feel
those brown hands – she’ll tell me, “I am so proud of you Mija,”
Is where I am home.

I sled in snow, sneak out at night
Or stayed
cicada bugs hum and bug lights flash
macaroni and hot dogs is where
I am home.

It’s gusts of wind and high pollen counts
Get mom all irritated
“Do you want to give your mother a heart attack?”
she suffers, saying too much how she feels
the church says she feels so much
I stay extra quiet
is where I am home.

Long hair, short hair, all auburn hair,
Dreaming of dunking the basketball, only want to be like Mike
Preach sermons outside to myself and sit down in groups
To learn how to be quiet, feminine to fit in
and I am no longer Mija or Querida because I am
lost in the church
is where I am home.

Mom was cooking and Dad made Kool-Aid
dumped white sugar in
not like other homes, tacos, tortillas, not taco bell
spaghetti, fried chicken, buttermilk brownies
smells in the kitchen of food made from scratch
is where I am home.

The basement is cold even in hot Nebraskan nights,
Too many chills hugging my body
I dream of Abuelita because
“Mexicans don’t go grey, they go red.” And
hear her steady soprano voice singing Querida and
remember who I am.

I belong to the music unwritten, the ivory keys fly
cream of wheat weekdays, bologna no cheese white bread sandwiches,
and I am her Mija, not brown, not white, only olive, but all hers

The porch swing, bike in the yard, homemade cookies,
telling her the truth that I am brown and white,
she believes this Mexican-German granddaughter
studying hard, living life, squeezing her four great grandkids, she can hear, “Vengan a comer!” from up in el cielo

One has a trombone, one has a saxophone, all four play piano, and sing sweet and true
The music echoes in the trees, we are here, six of us, because her roots went deep
smiling and crying, everyday goodness in a land where white is still right
and brown and olive and fair and dark are the shades of our six
fighting a good fight, clinging to Jesus, hope in hand
is where I am from.

Mother of four and wife of one awesome Mexican, Danielle Castillejo is a 2nd year student at The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology, studying to get her MA in Counseling and Psychology. She works and volunteers part time in an organization in Seattle that advocates for the agency and freedom of commercial sex workers. A survivor of abuse herself she continues to fight for sanity and love every day.