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For My Childhood Friend Derek
Who First Told Me
I Could Call Him Nigger
By Patrick Rosal

2007 Global Filipino Literary Award for Poetry
My American Kundiman (Persea 2006) by Patrick Rosal
Selections reprinted with permission from Persea Books.

I don't know when

the white kids in our neighborhood got permission to use it
or how they figured it was safe for them to say around me—for I wasn't

one: Not dark enough—I mean—to scare their mothers Yet not cracker
enough to date their sisters Know this: I didn't think of you as black

until the day you said I could call you nigger You meant to say we were
brothers So know this too: Since that day I have shouted this word inward

and let it echo throughout the dim continent of my skull I have split it open
with my bare hands like a plum and sucked its purple juice from my thumbs

I have cut it up into eleven pieces rigged its razored gears fermented it
in my spleen to gin and razed whole fields with it by blaze What shouldn't

a yellow boy like me know about a noun doused in 500 years of burning
What could I do when you poured its fire into my palms and said Take this

Drink And when did I learn to say it proud as a white boy How did I put it then
to my lips How easy to love the turn of a single word's blade cutting

every which way at once

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2007 Global Filipino Literary Award for Poetry
Patrick Rosal

As Glass

Beast

When You Haven't Made Love in a Long Time

The Woman You Love Cuts Apples For You

Kundiman Ending On a Theme from T La Rock

For My Childhood Friend Derek Who First Told Me I Could Call Him Nigger


2008 RESIDENT POET
Joel H. Vega

Woman in Alverna

A Street in Venice

Between Kisar and Makassar

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