Third Place – 2023 Beverly Hopkins Contest for High School Students

“This ambitious sprawling poem works its repetitions well.  It has an oral/aural quality that I like a lot.”

Allison Joseph, 2023 Hopkins Contest Judge

Identity Series Poems, I and II

Ladue Horton Watkins High School

identity part I: name

everyone loves my name
it’s so unique they say

what does it mean
where is it from
it’s so exotic
they claim they claim

a white substitute
mispronounces my name
a white dance teacher
mispronounces my name

when corrected i’m met with,
‘I love your name!’
thanks! i say
with a smile on my face

but somehow this name
won’t win any ‘fortune or fame’

maybe extra caution
on the highway when pulled over

maybe an extra search
in security at the airport

maybe hidden discrimination
unfair prejudice, buried racism

i think it would be easier
to be named

identity: part II- skin

my skin is brown
but not the same shade
not the sun kissed caramel
of the tropical landscape
my mother grew up in

my skin is brown
but covered with hoodies and jeans
with a face of makeup and cheap plastic earrings
brushing the blonde highlights in my hair
the color of the gold my grandmother used to wear

my skin is brown
but my mouth sounds different
it yells and it shouts
words like
Dude and Bro

my skin is brown
but my friends are not
they look like the people
who placed taxes
on my ancestors salt

my skin is brown
but i wish i was not
so i would not feel like
two angry halfs fighting
one speaking a language i cannot understand

my skin is brown
but i wish i was not
born a mix
of colonialism, assimilation
and two eager parents

their minds were filled
with the american dream
but now their dream
she only american
and the brown of her skin

is all that remains.