On their way to Canada in a red Mazda, my brother and his friend, PhDs and little sense, stopped at the border and the guard leaned forward, asked: Where you boys heading?
My brother, Welcome to Canada poster in his eyes replied: Mexico. The guard blinked, stepped back then forward, said: Sir, this is the Canadian border. My brother turned to his friend, grabbed the map from his hands, slammed it on his shaved head. You stupid idiot, he yelled, you’ve been holding the map upside down.
In the interrogation room full of metal desks and chairs with wheels that squeaked and florescent light humming, bombarded with questions, and finally: Race?
Stymied, my brother confessed: I really don’t know, my parents never said, and the woman behind the desk widened her blue eyes to take in my brother’s olive skin, hazel eyes, the blonde fur that covered his arms and legs. Disappearing behind a plastic partition, she returned with a dusty book, thick as War and Peace, said: This will tell us your race. Where was your father born? She asked, putting on her horn-rimmed glasses. Persia, he said. Do you mean I-ran?
I ran, you ran, we all ran, he smiled. Where’s your mother from? Voice cold as a gun.
Russia, he replied. She put one finger on a word above a chart in the book, the other on a word at the bottom of the page, brought them together looking like a mad mathematician bent on solving the crimes of zero times zero divided by one. Her fingers stopped on a word. Declared: You are white.
My brother stumbled back, a hand on his chest, eyes wide, mouth in an O as in O my God! All these years and I did not know. Then to the room, to the woman and the guards:
I am white I can go anywhere Do anything I can go to Canada and pretend it’s Mexico At last, I am white and you have no reason to keep me here.
Sholeh Wolpé is the author of Sin—Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad (University of Arkansas Press, Oct. 2007), The Scar Saloon (Red Hen Press), Rooftops of Tehran (Red Hen Press, Jan. 2008) and a Poetry CD (Refuge Studios). She is the coeditor of upcoming anthologies, Iconoclasts and Visionaries, and With Love, From Iran – Poems of Love and Seduction. Her poems, translations, essays and reviews have appeared in scores of literary journals, periodicals and anthologies worldwide, and have been translated into several languages. Sholeh was born in Iran but spent most of her teen years in the Caribbean and Europe, ending up in the U.S. where she pursued Masters degrees in Radio-TV-Film (Northwestern University) and Public Health (Johns Hopkins University). She is the recipient of several awards for her poetry and lives in Los Angeles. For more information please visit: www.sholehwolpe.com