The following poem is to be published by Press Release, a poetry collective in British Columbia, in a chapbook on the topic “What Work Is.” If you live in B.C., the chapbook will be distributed freely. I hope you are able to get a copy.

This is a persona poem, pushing the poet to write in the first person and hold a view and voice outside of one’s own experience. A persona poem on the topic of the  Japanese-American Internment by Dwight Okita, entitled In Response to Executive Order 9066, inspired this piece. Dwight Okita explains that his own poem is written from recollections of his mother describing going to “camp,” that is, the internment camps where Japanese American citizens were sent during World War II.  In her youthful outlook, she thought the idea of going to “camp” sounded fun, like going to summer camp.

There are so many spaces to pretend what is happening is not happening.

Here I am, pretending I am talking to you. There you are, pretending to hear me.




i wish they called me

the new kid like they call suzy on the playground

even though i am newer than her

but they say i am not clean enough

to be a new kid


on the first day

the boys asked me my name

i said Manuel

but they didn’t understand

so the boys call me Jose

and laugh


they stop when i beat them

at tetherball


my teacher says by sixth grade

i should be able to read

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

but i cannot read

english so fast

and anyways who likes to read

about factories chocolate kingdoms

oompa loompas

and golden tickets



after school when i help my papa

in the fields

he tells me better stories


he tells me in guatemala

the kids pick chocolate off the earth

so when i feel red hot and ready to fall

my papa tells me to pick the grapes

like i belong to guatemala

so in the summer i pretend fresno is guatemala

and in the winter i pick chocolate lettuce

and pretend salinas is guatemala

and when we go to texas

i pretend i pick chocolate cotton

like the cotton candy

you sometimes find in fairs


but sometimes

the sun makes it hard

to pretend


by Preeti Kaur

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