Browner Shades of White

Under race/ethnic origin
I check white
I am not
a minority
on their checklists
and they erase me
with the red end
of a number
two pencil.

I go to school
quite poor
because I am white.
There is no
square to check
that I have no
camels in my backyard,
that my father does
not have eight wives
inside the tents
of his harem
or his palace
or the island
he bought
with his oil
My father is a farmer.
My mother is a teacher.
I am white
because there is no
square for exotic.
My husband
does not have a machine gun
though sometimes his eyes
fire anger
because while he too is white,
his borders have long since been smudged
by the red end
of a number
two pencil.
My friend who is black
calls me a woman of color.
My mother who is white
says I am Caucasian.
My friend who is Hispanic/Mexican-American
understands my dilemma.
My country that is a democratic melting pot
does not.
originally published in my name on his tongue, Syracuse University Press, 2012, translated with permission