How to Assimilate

William Evans

Before I could make

white friends the one

I did have came over

after school to watch

Yo! MTV Raps and I went

into the basement only

to emerge later with my

father’s shotgun

and of course he went

even more white

because this was supposed

to be a joke, the type of shit

thickheaded boys laugh

at until their sides contract

into spasms.

          I mean, I laughed

even though I knew it wasn’t

that funny, even when I had

checked the gun for its emptiness

three times over,

I knew he probably

wouldn’t laugh but I was

committed to being the good

son who remembered

my mother collapsing

into a stove after work

and then a couch and then

work again and again

my father retreated below

the house

          and sometimes wouldn’t

come up for anything,

even if it was something

          he could tear apart

with his teeth. The men at

his job would whittle him

down into a cross until

he believed in it, stringing it

around his own neck,

and when I say

men, I mean white men

          because what other kind

is there? And yes, I know watching

my friend spread himself

in fear was like ensuring the parachute

on someone before pushing

          them out of a plane.

I don’t say

that to say he was a jerk

to me or that he deserved

it — it means his parents

got him a Starter jacket

for every team he liked

and I never felt right about

not refusing the one

he handed me down,

the one my father said costs

too much and maybe

he wasn’t talking about

the jacket anyway.

My friend’s parents


bought him two of the same,

but the gun, he said that wasn’t

cool and he was right

          and I could never really

figure out why I aimed a hollow

threat at my friend except

to say that I probably gave him

something I know so well

it rubs my back

during slumber,

but his parents

never could afford.


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