This week, we are proud to offer a new poem by Isaac Pickell. Pickell is an MFA candidate at Miami University of Ohio, where he teaches college freshmen as much poetry as his department will allow. He is the poetry editor at Oxford Magazine and founded the small press Pickled Words, which highlights the work of undergraduates. His work appears in Rogue Agent Journal and he is currently overwhelmed with appreciation that the Missouri Review took a chance with a new voice.
Until recently, my poetry was a place to express the unrepentantly personal, seen through an absurd, narrow lens. After reading yet another love poem, my partner challenged me: “Show me another passion.” Below is a descendant of that task, a poem aimed at one of the liminal spaces that both guide and cloud my attempts at self-definition.
“quadroon” speaks to the experience of passing, a phenomenon that is made more jarring by generational context. The world I inhabit will always be different than the one known to my mother, uncles, and cousins, and completely foreign to the world my grandfather left in 1966. Yet despite disparate circumstance, we are forced to inhabit the same spaces, as when a nurse refused to hand my swaddled body to mother, choosing instead to leave in search of new paperwork. Patterns repeat. A terraced guilt can be associated with passing, where privilege imparts a privilege of feeling guilt for being born a lighter shade.