America was never kind to me / America was never kind to a little girl with big dreams /A little girl whose nose is a little too crooked for its picture perfect college brochures / I cut my tongue on the pages / Learn to keep my mouth shut / Soften my Rs, point my Ts / Look at my mother, tears in her eyes / She watches as I break down my identity / Become westernized, demonized, compromised / Less of us, more of the other kind
America was never kind to me / America taught me that I am so much less of what I am / So much more of what I am not / Just a pair of hands to do the work the elite won’t / Just pair of eyes to watch the horrors unfold / I never say a word / That’s why they like me / I’m easy to be owned
Iva Sopta is a first-year student at Bennington, studying politics and journalism. She dabbles in creative writing and enjoys poetry and fiction. Her favourite poets are Phil Kaye and Sylvia Plath.
This poem was written during a very vulnerable time, when I was essentially drowning in imposter
syndrome and fear of not belonging here. And as an introverted person who is very defensive, I had
created this safety bubble around myself in the hopes of not getting hurt by the American (un)intentional xenophobia. I tried to protect myself from the exotification and fetishization of foreigners, and I failed. As if it weren’t enough that my existence was juxtaposed by America’s inability to balance between love and hate for the unfamiliar, I was forced to adapt in order not to evoke either of these emotions toward me. I think of this poem as a reminder to myself of what I had done to protect what’s left of me, what’s left of my home inside of me – my parents, my friends, my culture, myself… How easy it is for me to shed the skin I was born with so that I can survive in the American idyll. The essential idea behind it is that my sense of self hasn’t changed, but the way people perceive me had to for the sake of my sanity.