First Place Winner -- Not Mexican
by Rebecca Balcarcel

We bus stop kids stand apart, each his own solar system.
I keep three feet away from each person all through September.
In October, the Veliz brothers come, and this tilts the universe.
Now we have skin planets, or maybe it's just their tucked-in shirts,
but we stand in one group and they stand by themselves.
In the Rules of Bus Stops, girls don't approach new boys,
so I am spared. It is not my fault that the week goes by
with these two looking at their shoes.
But when a boy in my group hisses, "Mexicans"
like they're space junk, my cheeks flush.
When the boy looks right at me and says, "Don't belong here,"
I think it's my amber skin, but no. He wants to gain my electron.
I speak with no accent; he hasn't met my dad.
The group pulls together. I'm in.
If only repulsion didn't attract us. If only I didn't feel relieved.
If only this sun of belonging didn't turn me into a cold moon reflecting white light.

Illya's Honey Literary Journal

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