What are you?

A childhood in Alabama
consisted of fielding
ignorant questions daily.

What are you?
Human.
I mean, where are you from?
Born in New York and lived here since third grade.
But where are your parents from?
The Philippines.
Where is that?
Southeast Asia.
Then why does your last name sound Spanish?
Spain colonized the Philippines for centuries.

A brown kid in Birmingham
is a novelty and source
of entertainment.

Say something in your language.
You mean in Tagalog?
Whatever it is.
I don’t speak it well.
Didn’t your parents teach you?
Not really.
Why not?
They didn’t want us to sound fresh off the boat.
I would love to be bilingual.
You still can be — you just have to learn a foreign language.

Blending in is impossible,
but not lashing out is
the only option.

If I could’ve, I would’ve asked,
Are you pale during every season?
Since your grandparents are Irish, do you speak Gaelic?
Is your hair naturally blonde?
Are you actually one-sixteenth Cherokee?
If I could’ve, I would’ve said,
Your English is great,
for someone born in Bessemer.
Enjoy the rest of your life, thinking
Alabama is the center of the universe.

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