The latest in a biweekly poetry series curated by Hanif Abdurraqib

They say these streets is safe from hate,

That their tree-lined trails are tread only by those

Willing to walk beside another

Without judgment based on color;

Where justice is just something

That everybody knows.

They say that inclusivity is a pillar of our community

A proud construction proclaiming “All are Welcome!” and other

Words of peace, each one pithy and clean cut:

A wooden panel in a picket fence

Stretching on for miles

In a straight white line.

But I'm beginning to doubt these platitudes,

I've cut them open with context and seen

Hot air rushing out,

Leaving behind the less-than-presentable sentiments

Kept between the lines

When white people proclaim unity.

But believe me

When I say I wish that every bumper sticker slogan

Was gospel truth, that the glue on the back

Could stick together age-old wounds,

That coexist meant coexist, not ignorance of distinction

Rather recognition that a yard sign is only

Part of the solution, and that liberal communities

Still have a history of exclusion

So truly, as I walk these sheltered streets

All I am is a trespasser.

The sun-faced son of immigrant

And immigrants daughter;

I remember looking in the mirror,

Trying with childish might to see myself through blue eyes

Because I imagined that they made everything look

Cool as cresting waves ripe with white foam.

The irony passed over my head

Like offhand glances people gave me

When my actions insulted my skin by carrying

A child's carelessness, and over the next nine years

Even I would regret letting myself grow up slowly.

Wishing I had learned earlier that my family

Came from way farther than a mile away

So I could've understood why so few found it worth their time

To walk the distance in my shoes because they already knew

All they needed, not just about me but the space

I was naive enough to step in without getting

The proper subtext from that ever-present welcoming;

Because their great grandparents had built the streets

That mine had almost never seen, and called them safe

To draw lines between their neighborhoods

And the city, and as I stepped across them

I learned that these safe streets

Are safe for precisely no one

Outside the preset decorum, behavior, beliefs, whatever goes against

The segregationist heritage

That says trespassing is heresy, generational hatred

Aimed at anyone who dares to defy

The paradise they created

So I do so in plain sight

Hoping to change the narrative.