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

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

Related Interests

More from The Paris Review

The Paris Review10 min read
Dinner with Martin Amis
The one time I had an opportunity to meet Martin Amis, I ended up taking heroin instead. I’m not especially proud of this fact, it was a kind of accident, but also perhaps a lucky swerve from the more difficult experience of having to have dinner wit
The Paris Review3 min read
The Nobel Prize Was Made for Olga Tokarczuk
Olga Tokarczuk. Photo: © K. Dubiel. I’ve been saying it for years! Every fall, the big night would come and I would set my alarm for four or six or eight in the morning, depending on my time zone, and then not sleep because I was sure Olga Tokarczuk
The Paris Review4 min read
The Most Interior Text of the 1300s
It’s not the one you think… Decameron—that’s a long book. I powered through it this past summer. I was like a self-propelled lawn mower, had to be. I had a lot of big books on my to-do list. Each one of ’em was allotted two weeks and no more. I “had