code-switch virtuoso

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Image of author by author. My face doesn’t always look like that. 

code-switch virtuoso

I remember dad
made me say “yes”
with emphasis
upon the stressor

Nevermind
that I was nine
and tryin ta find
a kinder lesson

Cause he knew
that to stay true
the rule of two dialects
was needed

To succeed in greater stages,
I took heed for greater wages

That was the birth
of my first split,
my trunk from earth
and I admit

I never found out
where I fit,
forgot about
which was legit

If I could ask about my place,
Is it my mask or just my face?

I assimilate and then replace
but if it’s fate what gets erased?

Unlike the ballers,
I make myself smaller,
pump-fake for shot-callers,
and I try to hide

They don’t know me,
only what I’m showing,
phoniness controls me,
what I feel inside

I try to fit like 8-bit chipsets,
rely on wit
and slight-of-hand
to make you see
and comprehend
the fantasy

In apogee from what is me,
I hear the chorus and chime-in
a midi-synth vibe,
a remedy
that I prescribe

A suicide by a thousand cuts,
I lack the guts for full erasure
so I white-out, blot-out
the rougher sides

Not Safe For We,
or Not Safe For Me
to just safely be
authentically free

Unlike the ballers,
I make myself smaller,
I fake for shot-callers,
and I try to hide

They don’t know me,
only what I’m showing,
loneliness consoles me,
what I feel inside

Dysfunctionality amazing
when my laziness and cravings
take up space, ranting and raving

All my blemishes diminish
our corporate saving grace

I forfeit the part of me
that blends creativity and yin

Feeding them yang
yields hunger pangs
as I hang by self-inflicted sin

I cover-up
and smile through scars,
give my regards to Wayne Brady

It seems odd
the most successful switchers
go criminally crazy

O.J. Simpson and Bill Cosby
cracked the code and set the bar

I ain’t with them, but let’s always
set the mode for who we are

Unlike the ballers,
I make myself smaller,
breaking for shot-callers,
and I try to hide

They don’t know me,
only what I’m showing,
only just behold me,
who I am inside.
***


(NSFW – cuss words and shit like that there.)

Written for dVerse Poetics: On Privilege, hosted by anmol(alias HA). Other contributions to this prompt can be found here.

My dad demanded that I learn to code-switch and speak the corporate lingo so I could “make money in the white man’s world” (his words). Big ups to pops for making sure I could earn a living wage, but yeah, I almost never feel like my authentic self, whoever that may be.

This one hit me where I live, so I just let it flow in one take.

 

 

16 thoughts on “code-switch virtuoso

  1. Ah, the ideas and experiences that you express here are so relevant because they touch the cornerstone of identity and what it means in a world, where many of us have to split ourselves and create these compartments to adhere to ‘normative’ terms and expectations. I found these questions so hard-hitting:
    “If I could ask about my place,/Is it my mask or just my face?//I assimilate and then replace/but if it’s fate what gets erased?”
    Your understanding and recognition resound through such lines as “so I white-out, blot-out/the rougher sides” and “I forfeit the part of me/that blends creativity and yin”.
    Wonderful writing!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I wish I had read yours first. I could’ve done better to balance my own privilege with my identity crisis. Ah, but I got caught up in the flow.

      I’m glad you liked it, though.

      Like

  2. If one is in a position where hunger and homelessness are not an issue then authentic self and similar concepts can be mulled over. If not ,Pops is right and survival ( whatever it takes) is the ultimate consideration.

    just barry
    wanted to marry
    so he crossed his eyes\
    counted to five
    then reinvented himself
    as prince harry

    Liked by 2 people

    • My physiological needs being met is certainly a privilege by our current global standards. I acknowledge that I’m not living in a hut with no running water or Wi-Fi.

      Comedian Dave Chappelle said it best; “…I did something that many black men in America do not have the time or the money to do. I thought about how I felt.”

      Thanks for visiting me and leaving a note on the bigger picture.

      Like

    • My dad called it “playing your position” and it can be draining at times. Certainly not the worst thing in the world, but it mostly feels sucky. Thanks for commenting. Glad you enjoyed it.

      Like

  3. This is an amazing response Barry and I just read it, flowing nicely down the page. We all try to survive but truly, like you, I wonder where my real place is. This is my favorite part:

    In apogee from what is me,
    I hear the chorus and chime-in
    a midi-synth vibe,
    a remedy
    that I prescribe

    A suicide by a thousand cuts,
    I lack the guts for full erasure
    so I white-out, blot-out
    the rougher sides

    Liked by 1 person

    • Identity (cultural, familial, personal) has always been a mystery to me. Knowing that you feel similarly makes me feel less alone. Thank you for reading and sharing.

      Like

    • I’m going to ask you to stick a pin in it until we can convene for a post-mortem while someone takes ownership of this project.

      Thank you for dropping by. Now pardon me while I go strangle myself with an HDMI cable. 🙂

      Like

  4. I hear this message loud and clear! It is so exhausting to be with non-POC for this very reason but in order to survive you do what you gotta do. I love the rhythm of your words and also the code switching throughout the poem If this was a song I can imagine the first part being softly spoken over music then once the “refrain” hits (the stanza about ballers) it’s full on rap. So much truth in your words! Especially the part about OJ and Cosby. Seriously – this was so powerful! ❤️❤️❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  5. but let’s always
    set the mode for who we are

    love that phrase! we learn a language to get ahead, but never forget who we really are, your authenticity is strong and clear here.

    Like

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