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
Descartes, Dada and Socrates.
As though I didn’t learn
a whole new language so I could
understand my psychosocial
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)