20 Bars for Vitiligo

I grew up thinking that something was wrong with me. The way people stared at my spots. The many doctors’ visits. The homemade cures my mom tried. For many years I hid my skin. Was embarrassed by it. But I am finally at a point where I find myself beautiful the way that I am. My vitiligo skin, my white eyelashes are all natural works of art. This poem is a celebration of my journey to self love.

mami said I was born with the map of
puerto rico on my thigh
a tiny splotch of white on my brown skin

by five years old
un lagartijo blanco
along my shins

mami picked dandelions from a junkyard
then rubbed my white spots yellow

when i was ten
a little girl at a beach pointed at me
asked her mom
what happened to her?
her mom whispered
she got burned because she
wasn’t listening

an egyptian man in a smoke shop told me
the skin of a snake can cure you

in quebradillas
someone (and i curse this number 6)
said that eating liver every day
would cure me
mami made me eat liver every day for a year

mami boiled cloves and with a cotton ball
dabbed clove juice on all my spots
i slept with the sweet smell of cloves
the only cure i liked

even walking out of my house was hard

what the fuck you looking at?

winter/fall my favorite seasons
sweaters to cover up my arms

when she hits puberty
a vecina tells mami
eso se le va

in my teens
weekly ultraviolet treatments $100 a session
my poor mom working two factory jobs

i searched the etymology of vitiligo
in the OED
another name for vitiligo—

no i’m not contagious

a boyfriend invites me to a wedding
when i show up in a short dress
he says why didn’t you wear something
to cover up your spots
everybody is looking at us

a better boyfriend says
if we have kids
he hopes they inherit
my spots

there is no cure for vitiligo

only radical self-love
the kind that audre lorde speaks of

i am all vitiligo white now

i miss my spots

Alba Delia Hernández is an award winning writer, inspired by Puerto Rico, growing up in Bushwick, and salsa, who dances in the hybrid forms of fiction, playwriting and poetry. She was awarded the winner of the 2022 One Festival for her one woman show, Juana Peña Revisited and most recently read for the Bushwick Starr’s 2023 annual reading series at the Center for Performance Art. She is a recipient of the Bronx Council of the Arts First Chapter Award and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Columbia University. Her writing was highly commended in the Gathering of the Tribes Magazine, The Chestnut Review and other publications. She has performed at El Museo del Barrio, The Whitney Museum, Nuyorican Poets Café, En Garde Arts and La Respuesta in Puerto Rico and other venues. She’s a passionate yoga teacher, salsa dancer, and videographer who recites speeches by Puerto Rican revolutionaries or moves to songs of resistance. She teaches creative writing to NYC public school students with Teachers & Writers Collaborative.




2022 Prose Chapbook Winner
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