You act like there’s only one way
to be country. That country only means
white as though the boondocks did not
become white by design. Like redlining
and the Homestead Act never happened.
Like Oregon wasn’t founded as a white Utopia.
Like freedmen actually got their forty acres
and a mule and then just left for no reason.
You benefit from the architecture of exile
and genocide and then ask, “What?
Who, me? It’s not my fault they don’t
like living in the country.” You act like
you invented country music. As though
the southern in “Southern Gospel” doesn’t
just mean segregation. Like you own the folk
tradition. Like you’re the only ones
who drive trucks and dig in the dirt.
Like you’re the only ones who have
ever hunted and fished and drank beer
or sang sad songs about getting your
woman back or getting revenge on
your cheating man. Like you’re the only
ones who’ve ever lived in a trailer.
Acting like black and brown people
don’t still live in “real America”
even after being systematically targeted
and terrorized for centuries. Acting
like there’s no people of color in
Appalachia or the Mississippi Delta.
Acting like Eatonville is on Mars
and not in Florida. Like migrant workers
weren’t black before you could get them
cheaper. Like Central Americans aren’t
pulling night shifts at dairies in Wisconsin
and Indiana. Like Somali refugees aren’t
splitting open pigs in the panhandle
of Oklahoma. Like all the vaqueros in Texas
and New Mexico aren’t wearing cowboy hats
and shit kickers just like you. Acting like
they didn’t dress like that before you. Like when
you say the Rez is in the middle of nowhere,
but sure as hell ain’t country like you.
Abigail Carl-Klassen is a writer whose work has appeared in ZYZZYVA, Cimarron Review, Guernica, Aster(ix) and Post Road. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best New Poets 2015. She earned an MFA from the University of Texas El Paso’s Bilingual Creative Writing Program and has taught at El Paso Community College and the University of Texas El Paso.