El Mango Entero #5
Featuring Natalie Diaz and Naomi Osaka
Hello mi gente,
Welcome back to El Mango Entero. If you’re new here, bienvenidos. I hope you’ll consider subscribing and staying. This newsletter is a space to reflect. Often, I’ll share a poem or other artwork that’s been on my mind. Hopefully, you’ll join me in that process of reflection and clarification.
Naomi Osaka won her third Grand Slam singles title and second US Open Championship this weekend after defeating Victoria Azarenka in three sets on Saturday, September 12th. Osaka made headlines with her outstanding play and because she wore a black mask bearing the name of a different Black person killed by policemen for each of her seven matches.
After Osaka won the championship match, ESPN Reporter, Tom Rinaldi, asked her, “You said from the beginning you had seven matches, seven masks, [and] seven names. What was the message you wanted to send, Naomi?”
Naomi Osaka stands at center court. Behind her everyone stands at a distance listening to the new champion. Osaka answers the question with a question, “Well, what was the message that you got?”
One of my favorite moments in poems is when the writer breaks the fourth wall and speaks directly to the reader. Such moments feel charged with possibility because they break one of the earliest rules for quote unquote good writing we are taught: show, don’t tell.
These turns are delicious because they can surprise the reader. I imagine a reader as something like an eavesdropped. I’m saying maybe I got into reading because I’m a natural chismoso, and I always want to know what the secret is in a poem or a story. When the writer addresses the reader, it can feel a little bit like writer is saying, “yes, I know you’re listening.”
Today, I was reading Natalie Diaz’s POSTCOLONIAL LOVE POEM when I came to Diaz’s poem “Like Church.” This poem is a banger. When I studied abroad in Brazil, some cars would drive around blasting scripture in the morning. This is a poem I would drive around blasting through a sleepy neighborhood. It’s the type of poem that makes me excited about poems and their possibilities.
The poem begins with desire before the world intrudes. The speaker says, “What if/ we stopped saying whiteness so it meant anything.” While this statement doesn’t necessarily seem directed at the reader, it isn’t long before the speaker faces us directly: “They think/ brown people fuck better when we are sad./ Like horses. Or coyotes. All hoof or howl. All/ mouth clamped down in the hair, on the neck,/ slicked with latherin. You ask, Who is they?/ even though you know. You want me to name/ names. Shoot, we are named after them.”
Like Naomi Osaka, Natalie Diaz fields a question, “Who is they?” and like Osaka, Diaz refuses to answer. Diaz writes “You ask… even though you know.” I love this moment of refusal because it reminds me that some questions do not belong to us. Osaka’s answer to Rinaldi’s question with the same question was a moment of similar clarity. Who should have to answer the question of what Osaka’s protest meant? I’m sure Osaka knows what the names on her masks mean. Perhaps that question doesn’t belong to her, but belongs to non-Black people. “Well, what was the message that you got?”
What I’m Reading: I’m in the middle of two writing projects right now. One is a short story that I can’t talk about yet. The second writing project is a collaboration with the photographer, Tony Salazar. I need to finish the short story before I can get back to work on poems, but I am so hungry to get back to poems. I’m reading Natalie Diaz’s aforementioned POSTCOLONIAL LOVE POEM, and I am also studying Anthony Cody’s BORDERLAND APOCRYPHA. Both books are excellent, and I highly recommend them.
What I’m Watching: The NBA Playoffs are entering the conference finals this week. If you know me, then you know I’m a Jimmy Butler believer, so I am rooting for my hometown Miami Heat. Shout out to Hialeah, FL and my homie, Jennine Capo Crucet.
What I’m Listening To: I just finished listening to Joel Anderson’s Slate Podcast Slow Burn on the murders of Biggie and 2Pac. It was so good! It did such a good job of framing that moment in time. I look at hip hop now as pop culture, but in 1996 rappers and hip hop were still viewed as a fringe subculture even if rappers were selling millions of records.
This one goes out to Nikola Jokic. Who is Nikola Jokic? Jokic is the Center for the Denver Nuggets basketball team. More importantly, Jokic looks like this:
This is the type of representation I want in the NBA. I know I am no where near as skilled or even as athletic as Jokic, but that’s not gonna stop me from yelling “JOKIC” the next time I do a slow-motion behind the back dribble followed by a jumpless jump-shot. Where’s Glen Big Baby Davis at? Tell him it’s our time.
That’s it for today. If you read this, then thank you. Thank you for sticking with me. I hope you take good care of yourself.
See you soon,