The Paris Review

Poetry Rx: Still, Somehow, We Breathe

In our column Poetry Rx, readers write in with a specific emotion, and our resident poets—Sarah Kay, Kaveh Akbar, and Claire Schwartz—take turns prescribing the perfect poems to match. This week, Sarah Kay is on the line.

© Ellis Rosen

Dear Poets,

I recently had an uncomfortable interaction with a member of my fiancé’s family. This person met my dad, and then later commented to me that they were surprised by “the way he looked.” What they meant was, even though they knew of my pacific-islander ancestry, they were surprised my father was brown. I have been stuck on this interaction, and on other moments in my life when someone has made thinly veiled racist comments to me assuming that my light skin color means I am willing to listen to their derogatory, bigoted bullshit. Is there a poem to help with the frustration and guilt of moving through a world that affords me more safety and privilege simply because I was born with lighter skin than my dad and the other people whom I love dearly?

Sincerely,
Passing Through Life

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