Five Poems by Danni Quintos

All Filipina Women Are Beautiful

an old man with white hair says
to my brown, full-lipped face & I don’t 

know why, but it doesn’t feel like a compliment. 
When he says this, we’re at the airport, 

bags packed for a three-day flight & maybe 
he’s just asked Where to? I’m about four, 

with crooked bangs & buck-teeth, my lola 
holding my hand in all the long lines. Maybe 

she just smiles or thanks the man, after all 
we all want to be maganda like the Filipina 

Barbie on a friend’s tall shelf: hair swept 
into a shellacked knot, gold beaded dress 

& her tiny waist clipped into the plastic stand. 
I, too, think all Filipina women are beautiful 

or should be, are supposed to be a certain kind
of beautiful like this Barbie, or photos I’ve seen 

of Imelda with the same stiff wings 
as sleeves. But they are not the same brown

-armed Filipina women I know that play pekwa 
with my lola & bring fields of pancit, or the titas 

in slippers taking jeepneys in the shadow 
of a volcano. Instead, these beauties are fair 

as the flesh crayon I use to color in everyone, 
their lips painted pink, their eyes smoky 

& tilted just so. And maybe I carry this with me 
for years, watching Miss America pageants,

flipping through teen magazines, never seeing 
myself, but watching my reflection 

in the car’s side-mirror, trying to tuck in my lips, 
fold them against my teeth, thinner, 

like the other girls at my school, 
like the girls I see everywhere. 

Who I Wanted To Be Instead

My favorite shirt used to be
a polyester button-up 
that looked like a wet oil painting 
of a rainbow, stirred in circles. 
I wore it to feel cool until 
a North Carolina beach trip
with my older cousin
showed me what a baby
I was. She wore thin
camisoles with lace around
the cleavage, jeans so tight
they creaked when she bent 
over & here I was, Professor
Psychedelic, eleven years old
still trying to figure out
how to wear eyeliner. 
We walked to Wal-mart
& bought Something 
About Mary & after watching
it in the nighttime basement,
I wished I could just be 
like my cousin, smoking secret
cigarettes with gangly boys
under the dock, or like Cameron Diaz:
so cool she could swipe
cum in her hair & look cute,
so cute men did long-cons
for her affection. I blew out
candles for years, wishing 
to be like her, blonde & braless,
everyone smiling, pining 
for my attention.  


In 5th grade gym class I ran into the padded walls 
and felt like marbles bruised me under my shirt. That night
I dreamt they were big & flouncy and I looked at myself 
in a mirror, laughing. In a field at recess I did a cartwheel 

and Elliott Fess saw my shirt fly up to my chin. I’d forgotten 
we were different now. When I asked, did you see anything? 

he said, just two brown dots. I wanted him to feel embarrassed 
or changed by the sight of me. Or maybe to see me as a girl, a body. 

In high school I was crazy for my boyfriend who never tried 
to push his palm to my bra, even an accidental thumb didn’t

graze me. I wondered if there was something wrong with them: 
the shape, the size, did I wear the wrong bra? He guilt-prayed 

for forgiveness during youth group worship with his palms 
raised to the ceiling, trying to erase those afternoons of just kissing 

& nothing else but friction: our bodies trying to get loose 
from their husks, out of breath with all our clothes on, his mother 

down the hall, and Jesus watching the whole time. A couple years later, 
his best friend was the first boy to touch any part of me, to peel

my clothes from me & see more than just two brown dots. A secret
we kept in our breast pockets, the ways our bodies betrayed us. 

Sixth Grade Invisibility Studies

Somehow my new blue jean flares 
became high-waters & everyone could see
my babyish purple socks. My glasses got crooked
on my face, my hips spread wide & I started
to bleed through my pants unpredictably. 

This is when I tried to erase myself, pushed 
my limp hair in front of my eyes to become
invisible. A boy in art class called me the N-word
& smiled. I wanted to disappear & steal his backpack,
dump it out the window, math book & pencils spilling 

in the courtyard where only birds could get in. 
In orchestra class my bow sawed the wrong way 
during the moonlight sonata, my notes
too flat or too sharp. The teacher made me

play alone: imagine a violin floating in the air, 
squeaking. I got caught passing a note in Social Studies, 
triangle folded & flicked across a table, I was made 
an example of, a 500-word essay that no one wanted 

to write. I ran slowest in gym class, little legs pumping, 
a full lap behind the athletic older girls who took the tights 
from my locker & tied them in a knot like a flag 

up high. I pretended it wasn’t my locker, pressed my back 
against the metal gills & tried not to breathe. All the eyes 
watching the empty legs waving in imaginary wind. I waited 

for everyone to change back into their Old Navy shirts 
& Gap jeans, gather their hair into ponytails & leave. 

The bell rang in the empty locker room, I untied the knot 
& slipped my invisible feet in, like a jellyfish’s translucent

& stinging tentacles, like its empty 

head, a plastic bag. 

The Worst Part of Riding the Bus

Hailey McCourt 
was murdered. 
After her body 
was found in the park 
by a little boy looking 
for his ball, we all said 
nice things about her, 
pretended she was 
the nicest girl 
on the bus, our best friend. 
Before that, she was missing. 
Last seen on her bike 
according to 
but those who knew her 
knew she was last seen 
giving her mother 
the finger, 
last seen poking me 
in the back 
on the bus, last seen: 
her face covered 
in pink pimples, 
her teeth sharp as an angry 
dog’s, her little sister 
rolling her eyes & screaming 
Shut up, Hailey! 
Last seen flirting 
with my 6th grade boyfriend 
& asking me if I was 
Mexican & illegal. 
When her curly
blonde & snarling head 
didn’t appear 
on the school bus steps, 
we sighed
letting all the balloons
in our lungs go. 

Danni Quintos is a Kentuckian, a mom, an educator, and an Affrilachian Poet. She received her MFA in Poetry from Indiana University, where she taught Creative Writing and served as an Associate Poetry Editor for Indiana Review. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Day One, Pluck!, Best New Poets 2015, Salon, Cream City Review, Cincinnati Review’s miCRo and elsewhere. Danni is the author of PYTHON (Argus House, 2017), an ekphrastic chapbook featuring photography by Shelli Quintos.