“The Theatre Department” by Christine Stoddard

When you study acting as a biracial girl in the South,
            you will never portray Scarlett O’Hara,
            only ever Mammy
            because your program head does not think “protagonist”
            when she sees a mulatto.
You are an accessory, like the dogwoods that dot a plantation.

Bleaching cream is not expensive becomes your chant
            as you wait in line at the drugstore
            on a July night when your high yellow complexion
            browns below the florescent lights.

“It’s all in your head, your nappy, nappy head,” says Mom
            as she ruffles your black curly hair,
            but she’s whiter than you even thought God made white
            because she’s whiter than bleached opossum bones.
This woman is your mother not for her skin but for her blood.

That is, the blood of the Scots-Irish who defeated the British
            and wrestled wolves and brown bears out of Appalachia,
            while your father’s people battled bolls in the cotton fields,
            rising up to overseers when picking cut up their hands and souls.

You read scripts and fall in love with characters not written for you,
            only it takes you two and a half years to realize it.
            Then you lock eyes with a needle
            and, after one night of passion with a sewing machine,
            decide to design costumes.

Costumes are an icon, you tell yourself, because everyone remembers
            what Liz Taylor wore in Cleopatra
            and how Dorothy dressed in The Wizard of Oz.
            They remember and they don’t mind whose fingers do the work.
            Porcelain fingers, mahogany fingers, or high yellow fingers.

            This was the role written for me, the half-breed in the back.

Christine Stoddard is a Salvadoran-Scottish-American writer and artist who lives in Brooklyn. Her writings have appeared in Marie Claire, The Feminist Wire, Bustle, Teen Vogue, The Huffington Post, Ravishly, So to Speak, Jimson Weed, and beyond. In 2014, Folio Magazine named her one of the top 20 media visionaries in their 20s for founding Quail Bell Magazine. Christine also is the author of Hispanic & Latino Heritage in Virginia (The History Press), Ova (Dancing Girl Press, 2017), and two miniature books from the Poems-For-All series.

Joshua Barnett
Joshua Barnett
Editor-in-Chief at New Plains Review
Joshua Barnett is a Creative Writing graduate student at the University of Central Oklahoma. Prior to his academia career, he served as an infantryman in OIF for the US Army. He has been an editor for New Plains Review for two years, and looks forward to seeing the journal expand and take on new endeavors.

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