by Thanh Bui
Split, in 4 parts
In ethnoburbs, yellow boys borrow blackness
like counterfeit keys into the kingdom of manhood,
talk like nah, man, you trippin, that ain’t him while
living in basketball shorts & listening to Common.
They don’t know fake keys get stuck in locks
during winter & hip hop won’t save ‘em
when the undressing comes, but we all
gotta return home sometime.
I know this cause I was right there with ‘em,
watching in middle school the way Jenny Huynh
would lace up her high tops, leaving dusty
half-a-shoe prints on dark blue school chairs.
Sometimes, she would absentmindedly adjust her silver
hoop earrings whenever nervous, or in the days before a
game. Yeah, Jenny played basketball & made sure
to be good at it. Didn’t wanna seem like one of those
II. I would be safe
Towards the end of high school, Terrence, Nelson, & I would buy something from a place & stay there til closing time cause none of us wanted to be in our houses & none of us really slept that much at night anyway. Sometimes, we’d end up people-watching at a 24-hour store or browsing prices there after popping in cause one of us needed to get something. One night we were walking back to the parking lot from Walmart when a noise came from behind & Nelson said to Terrence, don’t run.
III. Honorary white is not a color
The first time someone told me
I wasn’t enough a person of color
to be in the room was also when
I realized we came from different
truths. Whereas people like her
were always part of my truth,
people like me were never
a part of hers.
So I changed my language
& watched when I spoke;
switched out contractions
for sharper-edged words
‘til no one could hear
in my voice where
In college, even
the ethnoburb kids
separate by race.
We carpool home
break & split
again in the
overcompensive pt. ii
i tell her i enjoy writing
& my mom is happy.
she doesn’t know
i’ve found a love
if it’s only
is security i
made fun of
About the painter: Eric Sorensen is a medical student and artist who loves painting, drawing, and photography. After college he studied painting at the San Francisco Art Institute. Eric enjoys both figurative and abstract work. Image: Painting, acrylic on panel (2014), part of a series exploring synchronous color palettes and the geometry of flat shapes abutting clean boundaries.
Excellent work. A pleasure (and a pain) to read.