Behind the Poems: Binary Code

Binary Code overlayed on pink, purple, teal ombre

The next poem in my Behind the Poems series is “Binary Code” originally published on Burning House Press.

Binary Code overlayed on pink, purple, teal ombre

Bilingual bisexual bi-cultural. Ones and zeroes. DNA.
Make a single switch or delete a digit and I become another.

A Spanglish dictionary embedded en mi cerebro, flipping
pages back and forth and sometimes pegándose.

Dark brown curls cascading from the top of my head and
sticking out in static on a cold day, frizzy in humidity.

Red that ran up my neck and into my cheeks when I heard
her sweet melody reverberating in my ears to echo forever after.

Hitch in my throat and dull ache in my chest when he said
We’re just friends, nodding my head in agreement with a smile.

Rojo, blanco, y azul. Smaller stripes and a single star
pero just as orgulloso as USA! USA! USA!

Yellow, blue, and red, Cotopaxi and Tungurahua at its center
guarded by a fierce condor with menacing wingspan.

Can’t change the code, can’t mess with DNA. A one to
a zero, a zero to a one and I am no longer a poet a singer

a friend a daughter a writer a student an angry sad happy
anxious furious human being. Change the code, change me.

Don’t try to change me.

This one feels obvious to me. Reading it again, it’s not refined, but that’s okay.

Comparing computer binary code to human DNA creates a parallel between man and machine. I actually further explore the concept of how certain humans are treated as machines in a newer poem published in Latino Book Review.

I also wanted to showcase how many binaries create one identity. It feels like the existence of so many overlapping binaries ends up voiding them altogether.

We live in a society so obsessed with categorizing everything into hierarchical binaries that don’t exist in any pure form. There’s always fluctuation and bleeding that happens between boundaries.

Each stanza represents a binary strand that makes up my identity. From my Latinidad – split between Puerto Rican, Ecuadorian and American – to the languages I speak and my sexuality.

I’ve always been fascinated by binaries and their hierarchies. I remember learning about deconstruction theory in English for literary criticism. The way certain aspects of culture hold a higher place and greater value always felt arbitrary. That’s because they are.

What happens to our identities when those binaries and hierarchies get broken down? Who do we become beyond the dichotomies? I like to contemplate these questions when I write my poems.

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