What Are You?

This poem would not give me peace until I gave it life.

“What are you?” they demand to know
Soft squishy sapling next to sturdy tree
Tan against peach, one making the other
“We look different,” I say
“Yes,” she smiles back

“Who is that?” they demand to know
Born by her body, fed by her flesh, nurtured by her heart
Once united, so obvious who was who, what was what
Now confusion reigns where common sense should flourish, the story
Obvious for all to see — for all who will look past hues to hearts

“What are you?”
Now I ask, what am I?
“Mom, am I black?”
“I must be black, because if this was 200 years ago I’d be your slave. That makes me black, right?”

My mother’s son
My father’s hope
My sister’s warrior
Hoodie down even in the cold and the rain
Make eye contact and smile
“Smile? What if I’m sad that day?”
Smile anyway

“What are you? Who is that? How will we label you? Into what box should you go?”
The ‘X’ no longer marks the spot I must occupy in the world
I will fight to make my own way
Even as the rest have decided the way I must go
Tan against peach
One making the other
I can be whatever I want to be
As soon as I get THEM to see me
And not be afraid
When I’m just walking, not ‘causing trouble’
I didn’t turn when you yelled, because I was thinking about Xbox, football, homework, the science fair
Not because I was disrespecting you
My mind does that — it drifts
Doesn’t yours?

What am I? Who am I?
Am I black? Am I smart? Am I a troublemaker? Am I scary? Why do you need to know?
I am me
I am hers
My name is Luke
That’s what you need to know