Volume 27, Number 3

Adelson’s Checker-Shadow Illusion

Always at least brown before, I wonder
what it means for me that I have grown up
with blacks and their ways, that I reference
black culture naturally in the classroom
to the exclusion of ninety-nine percent,
that my afterschool sensei was complete
with a balding afro and a black-fist patch.

A cop once addressed me as “Black boy”
when he shined the light on us encircled
in an alleyway, passing around a blunt.
What does it mean now that I am so far
from that gutted trap of a city, in a place
where I am addressed—in the shadow
of the academic tower—as “White boy.”

—M. A. Istvan, Jr.