Noelia Cerna


"BROWN" | A written piece by Noelia Cerna.


It happens when she enters the van.  Typical, soccer mom van. Suburban staple. 

Her white boss is driving, while she and three white coworkers discuss the day. 

As the conversation ebbs and flows she sits, looking out the window, watching 

the city roll by suddenly aware she is the only brown girl in this space. 

It is not a feeling of fear that fills her chest but one of sadness. 

Suddenly longing to look back and catch a flash of brown 

or black skin amongst the sea of white. She walks past the storefronts trailing her party,

an island 

locked in the Central US. 

The door to the restaurant opens and the beat of the latino music 

wafts out with the smells of meat and cooking onions, Spanish words 

surround her and she steps into this home. 

The cooks are all brown. They turn the carne on the fire 

as they dance to the music and laugh. 

It is loud and warm and smells like a fritanga.

Brightly colored banners hang in rows spreading across the ceiling 

the colors warm and inviting. They remind her of the open air markets

where the brightly colored shirts hang throughout tents

and the smell of cooking meat wafts between the aisles 

as the street vendors call out to the passersby to enter their stores

calling them 


sweethearts, loves, 



Wicker lanterns are spaced across the ceiling mingling with the colored banners

they sway with the breeze casting shadows below

twinkling in the dark room like a mother's prayers in the night 

as two parents prepare themselves to bring two little girls to the promised land 

hoping they would not forget the histories in their skin.

Laughing with her white coworkers the brown girl bites into her carne asada street tacos

letting the flavor fill her mouth and Narciso Yepes playing Romance wafts through her mind 

reminding her of a time she was a little girl and her father 

would serenade her with his Spanish guitar

and her curly hair was beautiful, and her brown skin was beautiful

and she remembers what it feels like to be proud of who she is

so she rides back to the office looking out the window, smiling 

and when she reaches her desk pulls the scrunchy out of her hair fluffs it 

into a frizzy mass of curls lets it hang loose around her shoulders 

puts her headphones in and ends the day with Narciso

with wild hair, brilliant smile, looking like the little girl her parents raised. 

Writer and Poet, Noelia Cerna.


I am Noelia Cerna. I believe the purpose of my poetry is to discuss the hardships of life with genuine honesty while highlighting the resilience that we all have to not only survive the most horrific things but to do so powerfully in order to help heal those that go through the same hardships after us. I hope in all of my poetry people can find both an honest assessment of the world as I see it, myself and also a ray of hope that no matter what happens that we can come out of anything stronger and far more beautiful than we could have ever imagined. 

A B O U T | Noelia Cerna

Noelia Cerna is a Latina poet based in Fayetteville, AR. She was born in Costa Rica and immigrated to the United States at the age of 7 and received a Bachelor’s degree in English from Westminster College in Missouri. She is currently working on a book of poems discussing the experience of being a first generation immigrant and a book of essays about the Arkansas prison system. Noelia is a reader and poetry feedback editor for Tinderbox Poetry Journal, a writing mentor for Pen America’s Prison Writing Mentorship program, the new Board President of the Ozark Poets and Writers Collective and an Associate Editor with Sibling Rivalry Press.

Publication Credit: Brown is forthcoming in The North Meridian Review.