I have stopped counting the number of days when I feel unable to do anything
But sit on my bedroom’s carpet and allow my fingernails to create moon-shaped marks on my skin.
Thinking that maybe, just maybe, if I can pretend to tear myself open, my problems, too, will pretend to spill out of my system,
And the weight of being an American in all ways except on paper
Would release its long-held grip on my heart.
Only then, will the air entering my lungs stop recognizing me as a foreigner, and I will breathe.
So if I seem sullen, it is because I am trying to remember the places where my nails dug into my skin,
Because those will be my breathing holes for now.
If I glance nervously around the classroom, I am just momentarily remembering
That even though somewhere along the way my accent eroded
As I shaped English into a language I could familiarly taste in my mouth,
My life will be very different from a lot of these students’,
And this choking recollection will take my breath until I remind myself to just keep pretending, goddamnit.
And if I seem physically hurt
In government class, when we debate about illegal immigration
It is because I am.
It is because I cannot stand the pounding of my heart, or the pressure of the pulse in my veins
For I can feel all the days of sitting on my bedroom floor
In one moment.