- White Power
To explain, for instance, this gas station clerk who speaks to me in emphasized English, as though my native language were something he heard in a war movie, I have to go back to my neighbors in Bakersfield, who listened to metal and shaved their heads
because their neighborhood was filling up with spics, niggers, fags and me. "Go back to the jungle!" they'd shout at fruit pickers and drag queens, and I wondered what imagined world they fought, what tropic in which people swing from banana trees like crazed gay Mexican lemurs. "Go back inside," their mother told them
when she saw me watching from my porch, my face brown with California sun, my eyes like slants of rice grain. They vanished into their cluttered besieged house, the deadbolt dropping as the door shut. To understand the deadbolt, I have to go back to high school, to a boy who called me gook
every afternoon as he walked past me. His father was a veteran, his brother a marine, my face the enemy's face. Every day for a year, he strolled by me and looked straight ahead as he said gook in emphasized English, or chink, rice nigger, slant-eye, Chinaman. The afternoon I caught him alone
and saw the swastika drawn on the back of his hand, I punched him in the face until he curled up on the floor, arms shielding his temples, and then I kicked him until the police came. To explain why I was crying when my boot met his belly, I have to go back to my first neighborhood
where, when I was eight, white people moved in. Their sons were a little older, and loved to play cowboys and Indians. They were the blond and fair frontiersmen, the rest of us hordes of small dark Cherokee struck down [End Page 44] to make America. You two are Indian scouts, they said, and you over there, you're braves. Everyone was a cowboy or an Indian, except for a little girl and me. We don't need no more Indians, they said. Too many damn Indians already. You two, you're horses.
We giggled until they pushed us to our hands and knees and ordered us to eat grass. A year later, I would fight one of them until he made me cry, but there on all fours, I ate the grass. The little girl bawled, her mouth green as money. Get along, they said. They drew their pistols, and they rode us.
Preston Mark Stone’s work has appeared in the Red River Review, Lumina and the Crab Creek Review. He holds an MA in writing from Sarah Lawrence College and was a winter fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, where many of these poems were written.