Hoodrats

by Araceli Montaño, from the book Hustlin’ Hermanas (2016)

they’d call us.
Various interpretations––
from neighborhood sluts, to hynas,
to the girls who simply did hoodrat shit.

Growing up on the Southside,
you learn a lot about the ways of the hood.
They were written on graffitied walls
under bridges like the Bible, but with more art.
It was easy to fall into mousetraps.

Skipping school for Sonoran hot dogs.
Concealing weed for friends.
Recording fist-fights in alleyways.
Joking about whether the loud bangs were fireworks
or gunshots.
Learning how to jump fences and walls.
Writing in sharpie on bathroom stalls.
Knowing red and blue were more than just colors on police cars.
Memorizing all the words to Colt 45 by Afroman while
tracing bus routes to the mall.
Buying from liquor stores instead of gas stations.
Lying for friends who weren’t where they were supposed to be.
Making my friends lie for me when
I wasn’t where I was supposed to be.
Getting drunk in secret spots.
Wearing hoop earrings and when they say, the bigger the hoop, the bigger the hoe,
wearing larger hoop earrings.
Flipping off cars that honked at me.
Yelling you ain’t shit for added effect.
Making teachers want to quit.
Using quinceañeras as an excuse to get dressy,
dressy as in looking older than our age.
Jumping on trains passing by.
Jumping off before going too far.
Riding in shopping carts around parking lots.
Getting kicked out of grocery shops.
Eating at the nearby taquería to laugh about it.

Watching friends become addicted to things
I was careful to never try.
Witnessing classes shrinking, disappearing dropouts.
Seeing teachers quit on the spot.
Rubbing friends’ pregnant bellies.
Working instead of schooling, or both.
Writing letters to the county jail.
Putting money into an inmate’s account.
Staring down at caskets six feet under.
Cleaning up a little too much spilt blood.

You’d never guess it by looking at me.
Always in the wrong place,
never at the wrong time.
As a hoodrat, I’ve run
over so many mouse traps.
Never got snapped––
I’ve made it out

alive.