As Robert Frost said, the best way out is always through.
Or as Alanis Morissette said, the only way out is through.
Or as I said, 8th grade was all Robert Frost & Alanis Morissette.
Because I had to learn who the important white people were.
& we worship immigrant hardship instead of making things more livable.
To read & remember & know & say so, without the echo of an accent.
When the white kids knew nothing about Marilyn Chin.
When the white adults know nothing about Lawson Fusao Inada.
When the 30-year-old white guy in poetry class says A poem is this —, based on what a 70-year-old white guy once said.
& everyone just nods & I want to say No, & scream, & punch Robert Frost in the teeth.
& take everyone through the wound of it.
Through the cat with a hummingbird in its mouth.
Through my much-desired never-fulfilled Halloween costume, which was the wheel from
Wheel of Fortune.
Through the night my father came to pick me up from a friend’s house.
Through the early fall sidewalk. Through Newton, Massachusetts. Outside Boston. Inside whiteness. Through my enjoyment of The West Wing, with white friends.
Through my father knocking on the wrong door, the neighbor’s door. Through the neighbor’s door, where you can hear them whispering, deciding to call the police because who is the man at the door, calling in a strange voice?
Through my father almost getting arrested for trying to retrieve his son. Through later, in the car, my father insisting You gave me the wrong address. Through Don’t ever give me the wrong address again. Through my imitations of Frost in 8th grade, which my teacher called impeccable. Throughout the town, on every doorstep except ours, a little family of carved pumpkins. Through the smiling wounds of their faces. Through Why don’t you try not going to the wrong house next time? Through hugging my white friends goodbye-yeah-see-you-in-class because nothing was wrong.
Chen Chen is the author of the chapbook Set the Garden on Fire (Porkbelly Press, 2015). A Kundiman Fellow, his poems have appeared/are forthcoming in Poetry, Drunken Boat, Twelfth House, The Margins, Ostrich Review, The Best American Poetry 2015, among others. His work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net. He is the winner of the Matt Clark Editors' Choice Award, from New Delta Review, and the Joyce Carol Oates Award, selected by Ishion Hutchinson. He holds an MFA from Syracuse University and is now a Ph.D. candidate in English & Creative Writing at Texas Tech University. Visit him at chenchenwrites.com.