When Was the Last Time You Saw A Black Boy Smile?


By Jasminne Mendez


(In response to Pedro Pietri’s poem: When Was the Last Time You Saw Mami Smile?)


He ran from the crib to the cradle


As his daddy smiled

So he smiled too


He read a book about a fish




A, B, C

Gasping for air

And the teacher smiled

So he smiled too


There was a momma

And a Nana

And a brother

And a sister

And cousins

And boyfriends

And Sister’s baby



And a small house

With too few rooms

Bars and locks on the door

And no daddy anymore


But this little black boy

Found the strength

To inhale


And smile


When he didn’t pass the test

And was expelled for attention deficit

His mama threw a fit

But there was nothing he’d regret

So he sighed with relief

And smiled


No money coming in

Every day he’d go out

Get ignored by most

Accosted by some

But never treated fairly

And he barely

Had any patience left

For smiling


He tried to get a job

Was told he looked like a slob

Cause his pants hung low

And he spoke too slow

So he left without a word

Huffing and puffing

Until he finally

Stopped smiling


Because his sister needed to get fed

And his mom was sick in bed

And the lights were out

And he wanted to shout

But couldn’t find the words

Because they stuck to his chest

And collapsed in his lungs


And he wanted them understand


But he was

Questioned by the cops

Cause he lingered too long

In one place

His face

Was a target

For hate

That choked his

Already airless airways

All because

He wouldn’t smile


Stopped in the street

Trying to defeat

His predestined fate

Couldn’t get it straight

When they asked him his name

So they took out a cane




And look America…

I see him smiling now

And we should never make

Him feel bad again


We’ll always give you a chance

And a home

And food

And enough







I can see you from my laptop

I can see you from my phone

I can see you on the news



Smiling when they cuffed you

Smiling when they beat you







couldn’t breathe


Jasminne Mendez is a performance poet, actress, teacher and published writer. She is a graduate of University of Houston where she received both her B.A. in English Literature and her M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction. She captivates audiences through the passion and energy of her words and voice and enjoys performing for both old and young audiences alive. Mendez has performed her poetry in venues all around Houston, including the MFAH, Rice and the Alley Theatre. She has shared the stage with respected writers and poets, notably, Sandra Cisneros and Taylor Mali. Mendez has been published both nationally and internationally and her first multi-genre memoir Island of Dreams was released in 2013 by Floricanto Press. She is currently at work on her second memoir Thick Skinned and hopes to publish it by the end of 2015. 

This is the 6th post in the 8-part series featuring poets and writers on theme of OUTRAGE. Here is my brief intro to the project.