Write What You Know

I became a full Mexican to publish my first poem,
because the truth would have muddled the impact.
Wit is brevity, and purebreds have more value
than mutts in dog pounds and in poetry.
A culture and heritage that matter little to me
are more poetic than a life shaped by Final Fantasy.
Lightning is fleeting, but tradition’s immortality.
It mattered little what I really wanted to say.
I just wanted to be saved, so I crossed the penumbra,
but I found no light, no sign of intelligent life.
I learned magic wasn’t real after my first time.

I am also part Portuguese, Puerto Rican, and Filipino,
but I know even less about all those. At least I’ve been to Mexico—
Cancun, for MTV Spring Break, not to reconnect with an estranged grandfather
as I had written; he lived in Oakland, and my fondest memories of him are not
of stories about life in Mexico—he may have never been—
but of when I first played Super Mario Land 2 on his Game Boy.
I’m not a good person of color. If only I were white.
Nobody would expect me to be a stereotype.
Whitewashing made Doctor Strange great according to critics.
Why can’t it do the same for me?

I’m not like a poet at all. Some would say I’m the reverse.
To be a poet, I was taught to market myself. Who would listen
if I never reached out? Who would understand?
Write what you know, unless all you know are pop culture references.
Then write about the world as if you can save it,
but no matter how often you pontificate, that won’t change
the fact that everybody came to hawk their own words, not listen
to yours. Mine are no longer for sale, partly because I hold no value
to strangers, and partly because they hold no value to me,
but mostly because I’m the middle class now.
Why act as if I still struggle in poverty?

Critique

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