A Pure Medley

By Adeline Nieto

Illustrator: Favianna Rodriguez

Favianna Rodriguez

In a class on culturally responsive teaching at Ithaca College, my professor, Jeff Claus, asked us to create poems of introduction. He was modeling how to use two of Linda Christensen’s poetry lessons: “Where I’m From: Inviting Students’ Lives into the Classroom” (from Reading, Writing, and Rising Up) and “For My People: Celebrating Community Through Poetry” (from Teaching for Joy and Justice). My poem was inspired by Margaret Walker’s “For My People.”

A Pure Medley

This is not about the debated clash of civilizations

But about the vibrant, continuous bleeding of cultures

This is for the Americanized, assimilated immigrants’ children

The evolving, eclectic generation

Who never purposely left behind an identity

Who never purposely decided to plow forward and

Who never purposely stopped reflecting back

This is for those who inhale the desire to recount histories

And exhale the desire to discount them

This is not for my grandparents, or even for my mother or for my father, Jorge

This is for my sister and for my brother, George

Who eat lumpia and kare-kare, and pollo saltado and arepa in the same week

Who say Ay naku po and Ay ay ay, and Tita and Tía

Who tan and freckle, drawing constellations on exposed flesh

Attempting to connect fleeting shooting stars

Who sit side by side and are mistaken for

Not brother and sister, or even cousins

But friends

This is for those of us who are the artifacts of a marriage

Of two humans who originated on opposite sides of the world

Who choose to remember roots for the sake of diversity

And to forget them for the joyous sake of simplicity

This is for those of us who long for strong family reunions

That flower from our branch on the cactus

Delicately settled atop spines

For those who have never witnessed their mother’s relatives and their father’s relatives


And who consequently forfeited world peace at a young age

This is for the ones who pump tangoing mixed blood

Of entities not quite white and not quite black

Not quite indigenous and not quite invasive

For the dancers who mirror twisting kaleidoscopes

Morphing into beautiful, seemingly graceful patterns of colorful beads

For the chameleons in this world occupying myriad bodies of land

Inquisitive to live beyond, and therefore leave, the familiar

This is for my journeys to a motherland and to my imperialist forefather

That only resulted in more exclusion and confusion

This is for fighting against being commodified and exotified

For overcoming triple the stereotypes

Triple the ignorant remarks

And triple the caricatures

This is for educating schoolmates that Filipino is spelled with an F

And café owners that Colombia is spelled with an O

This is for the understanding that a half or a quarter of an ethnicity

More often eliminates me from the group rather than adding me in

This is for the ability to choose which facet to identify with

Only after I analyze which would be most convenient

For calculating a witty response to “Where are you from?”

And for becoming so damn confused when

Offering a literal response to the philosophical question “What are you?”

This is for those of us who have inevitably become accepting of all walks of life

After our own walk in life

For those whose half-life, and even quarter-life, crisis

Never quite leaves shore because the identity crisis is still out at bay

Running the length of the marathon

This is for those of us who have the knowledge of nomads

Thumb tacking trails of tears and visited validations

Learning to hate

The borders and unforgiving definitions

Society stresses to create and uphold

To construct contrasts to outshine the shadowed

And the ethnocentricism and xenophobia

That scares and scars

Learning to love

The transcendence and ambiguity

That comes with linked journeys and linked fates

With shared middles and shared tenses

And the self-discovery and self-acceptance

Initiating genuine engagement

Yet this is primarily for those of us who

While we may have sacrificed world peace

Still find the energy to nurture inner peace

Because we know that with deep-rooted discoveries

We may extrapolate our findings and our amends

From a sample of self to a population of plenty