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  • Question of Origin
  • Alan King (bio)

at a house party a poet asks,how come you don't write poemsabout the West Indies. I mean,your parents are from Trinidad

when you say you weren't bornthere and only visited a few times,he smiles as if he's caught youashamed, trying to conceal

Calypso blaring through backyardspeakers, curry chana and jerkchicken laid out buffet-styleonly for this occasion, you explain

if he comes to this house any othertime, he would see your folks caught upin "American Idol"—screamingat Simon—over American meals

you go on about their 30-plus yearsin this country, why your mom'shesitant to revisit her birthplace

and how, out of shame, she shunsany reminder of poverty she knewgrowing up in Morvant

but whatever you tell this Americanpoet is excuses, and he calls youa Texas-poet despite you being bornin Washington, DC

that's to give you an idea, he says,of the distance between what youwrite and your reality

though he means well, you're convincedhe doesn't know what he's talking about

every time you try to claim thatculture, your parents are quick toremind you how American you are

and no amount of pridechanges that you will always beonce removedfrom where they call home [End Page 731]

Alan King

Alan King is a poet and journalist, living in the D.C. metropolitan area. His poems have appeared in Alehouse, Audience, Boxcar Poetry Review, Indiana Review, MiPoesias, and RATTLE, among others. He is also the senior program director for the D.C. Creative Writing Workshop, a Cave Canem fellow, and VONA alumnus. He has been nominated for both a Pushcart Prize and a Best of the Net selection. His first collection of poems, Drift, will be published in 2012.



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