It's Good to Sit Down with a Racist Every Now and Then

by Naomi Shihab Nye


When he says, Your people don't like to work, do they?
stare at his belly, excess folds of fat around the middle
which must be making it hard for blood to get to

the brain. Consider his red T-shirt with little lion monogram
and three neat buttons. As he calls the waiter over
to interrogate him about the broth in the enchilada sauce,

Is it meat-based or not, and becomes incredibly ruffled
when the waiter says Yes, secretly laugh. You never liked that
sauce either, now you know why. They never stop working.
They work so hard.
He is moving the fork because it touched the knife
because it touched the spoon. He is demanding
a new rolled napkin of silverware.
He wants a different bowl of guacamole.
He has been deceived.

When he says, My people try so hard to be nice to your people,
but your people can't accept it,
say what your father
taught you to say, I think you need a little more information.

Then pause. Sit back. Breathe as if you are in
a cool penguin cave at a zoo.
When he takes time to check his many phone messages,
stare at his eyelashes, gracefully curled, like the long lashes
of a girl who knows she is special,
no one else comes close.

 

 

Naomi Shihab Nye has published numerous books of poetry, as well as poetry and fiction for children, anthologies, and other genres. Her two most recent books appeared in fall 2011: Transfer (poetry) and There Is No Long Distance Now (short stories). This poem originally appeared in the Winter/Spring 2012 issue of the Bulletin.

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