Poetry

How to Express Mixed Emotions on a Standardized Test

AMBER SOLLENBERGER

AMBER SOLLENBERGER

Brace yourself on your number 2 pencil.
Bubble in your name, your address
and quantitate yourself.
Make a complete Stop at the heritage box.
Be careful,
It might be labeled ‘Race,’
or ‘Ethnic Origin.’

Don’t bubble in ‘White.’
Don’t bubble in ‘African-American.’
And don’t bubble in ‘Other.’
Because neither of your parents
is an Other.

When strangers group together
try not to notice
the pale and dark roads form
that you don’t quite fit on.

Try not to endear yourself
to your mother’s nephews
more than your father’s.
and when the phone rings,
and your little cousin’s voice asks
why you talk white,
try not to answer.

If on your way home
someone asks you
where you’re from,
feign ignorance,
and answer ‘California.’
When they follow with
‘Where are your parents from?’
answer ‘New Jersey,’ or ‘Ohio,’
And just keep moving.

Don’t admit that when
a stranger calls you
‘Dirty Mexican’ or
‘Sand Nigger’
what really upsets you
is that they can’t tell
which racist name to call you.

Just keep moving.
You’ll get to the space
between Jersey and Ohio eventually,
and you don’t want to miss a problem
this early in the test.

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