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Portfolio: Poems about race

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APRIL 08, 2016


By Leon Barros

Salterns harvest the ocean Don’t you know all Filipinos pray facing Manila

is barren Nothing grows there anymore It is tradition to salt cities asphyxiate soil make sure you can never come

back I smell brimstone from 3,000 miles away The sun rises in the west and I’m always a day behind

California is edging the Pacific is my second home is drying up One giant salt flat Salt pillar I am

told California is the place of work for over one million Filipinos No one really lives here Don’t you know all our sweat tears

blood goes through Western Union I am 70% saline I know there’s salt in the mountains east of here I choose

apartments based on their proximity to the Bay I am hunted by a memory I come to America for American progress SFO JFK

Airplanes are “tools of globalization” “tools of class mobility” I book roundtrips make it easier to pilgrimage

home for Christmas Philippine-American relations have always been complicated Don’t you think I know that   I am popular

BuzzfeedVideo topic Americans Australians try Filipino Dishes Street food delicacies If I hear one more white person tell me

it’s too salty I keep salt in my pocket I was born belly-full of brine I am one question in your U.S. History Exam in which I am

traded from one empire to another for the salt price I am nothing   if not Made in the Philippines

deep-sea Capiz-shell chandelier from West Elm tells me I have   made it well enough to turn my back and look eastward to

nothing grows here except along the edge of the dead ocean Salt harvests in shallow pools Don’t you know drinking

seawater only makes you thirstier waterlogged lungs evaporate and I am drowning Don’t you know no one ever really leaves the city Don’t you know I am always looking back


Anna who is Indian and me who is White, removing our body hair

By Sarah Gabrielle Adler


She begs, “clean my eyebrows,”

tiptoes up to a

white-tiled bathroom, carefully selects

the plastic mirror we


beneath our under parts.  

Harmless light rays

cut the clean bathroom floor

and she yelps while

I tug out her thick Indian stalks,

tug until they are shivering naked

fish with fat trimmed off, gutted clean,



sticking to my fingertips.


We stand naked and

we stood naked


When we

examined our under parts.

We both saw our pinking folds.


But now, we stand naked

and her face is more pink

than anything we saw

in the mirrors below.

Is this what it means to be best friends?

To find where she is white too?


Contact Leon Barros at [email protected] and Sarah Gabrielle Adler at [email protected]

APRIL 08, 2016