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To All The Apostates in Trump Country

in Identity by

They say, “That ain’t the way
you were raised,” as though
I forgot somehow. As though
my identity should be static.
As though my politics and life
decisions were seamless—part
of a process that never happened
because now they say I was
always, “that way.” As though
they could never be “that way.”
As though I didn’t hear the students
gasp, “you went to school here?”
when I came back to teach
for a season where I grew up.

As though I never read the Bible
or wanted to be a missionary.
As though I never owned anything
monogrammed or rhinestoned.
As though I don’t flatten my accent
or remind myself that the department
potluck doesn’t need potato chips.
As though every time I try
to dress up, I don’t look like
I’m going to a Baptist wedding.

As though I didn’t spend
undergrad mispronouncing
Descartes, Dada and Socrates.
As though I didn’t learn
a whole new language so I could
understand my psychosocial
identity negotiation.
As though I could actually
use that language where I’m
from. As though I don’t wonder
what words we would choose
to describe our own experiences.
Or if such words exist. As though
I didn’t have to explain
my use of the word butt-hurt
to my colleagues. As though
I didn’t consciously keep
y’all as a socio-linguistic marker.

As though I don’t already
think that what I do isn’t real
work. As though I don’t feel like
I have put up with classism
in order to hang out with
people who share my other
ideals. As though I don’t feel like
screaming at “upper-middle class”
hipsters, “Take off those trucker
caps you fakers!” but don’t because
I feel like I fit in pretty good—
minus the way I was raised.

But I see you, ex-fundamentalists,
not raised with social justice Jesus.
I see you, small-town drag queen, not
raised to slay in heels. I see you
flower child crystal healing
toking farmer, not raised to be
an artist. I see you, chemists,
microbiologists and science
educators, not raised to believe
in evolution or climate change.
I see you single-mother, not
raised to be the breadwinner.
I see you Dreamer, not raised
to admit you were undocumented.
We, raised up in the same dust.
I see you. I see you. I see you.


Abigail Carl-Klassen has been published 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 taught at El Paso Community College and the University of Texas El Paso.

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