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Don’t Tell Me How to Say My Name

With a bounce in my step and a smile from ear to ear
My feet made their way into white stone walls
“Maybe you should say your name
like this,”
he says to me.
“Clients get confused when you say your name
your way.
They don’t get it.”

He swivels in his chair,
his chest puffed,
his words masked as wisdom.
Anger flowed up and down my spine.

Brown bare feet and hands, covered in sand, running across the street and back,
running around, avoiding cars and lighting up fireworks,
Warm nights, spent listening to my grandfather’s stories next to a tree I climbed early that day.

Millions of immigrants crossing to safety,
holding on to each other
for that and the sweat on their backs is all they brought.
It’s the calloused hands that grip the shovel to move mountains
to stride onto new land.
You know, safe land.

Don’t tell me how to say my name.

The way I say my name is not a trend.
The way I say my name is not a commodity
to be used, or changed just because you “don’t get it.”

Sitting in the back of my dad’s truck barely old enough to formulate proper sentences,
desperately trying to memorize where I’m from although
I’ve lived there my entire life.
How does a child convince the man in firm green
we are the same?

I’m not yours to mold,
So don’t tell me how to say my name.
The way I say my name stands on the shoulders of those who rose before,
of those who dance like the world is on fire and there is no tomorrow.

Do you want to know my name?
My name is three words,
And no, I will not change how I say it.
My name is Ariella Pinedo Vanegas. 

Sin Comunicar

I recollect blurry visions of tattered yellow books and cassette tapes

a gift of  a migrant parent and a son of migrants

They wanted me to own el idioma inglés


Time lapses to fourth-grade lectures and Missions of

San Diego de Alcala

Built out of paper and popsicles sticks but mostly I recall

Getting in trouble for finding the peeling ceiling and fluorescent lights

Far more interesting


Among the scattering of rules for conformity and petty elementary school crimes

Came a teacher’s assistant to take me away from a classroom of 25 to a class of 5

To take a test after test after test that only bilingües


No matter how fast I finished and how many I passed they continued 

And so did I 

Poseyendo el idioma que tanto querían negar  mío

'Don't Tell Me How to Say my Name' and 'Sin Comunicar' can be found in Write Now! SF Bay's Anthology "ESSENTIAL TRUTHS: THE BAY AREA IN COLOR"  buy here

Beyond the Coffee Mug on the Window Sill

We pretended that there was no world outside,

Hid away with small-talk and 

blissful smiles

You know,

That's the thing about the city

it's selfish and it's overflowing

Out of small

apartment buildings,

They sleep or argue all night

only to have overslept a second

too long


But on those infinite days when

the sun decides to peek through ...

     Shine through the scatter of

      buildings and bustle of

      humans -- too important to

      acknowledge anything

      beyond the rotation of their

      world -- This city, my city,

      can be kind. 

Published in CCSF's 2017 Forum Magazine

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