Total Recall

Reposted from a few years ago, by request.



1. (in an office at work)

“they hate white guys like us.”

“i’m not white.”

“what do you mean?”

“my father’s Mescalero.”

“oh, that doesn’t count.”

2. (in a bar)

“you’re a conquered people
and you’re just going to have
to get used to that.”

3. (at my nonni’s house)

“your father steals from me
every time he’s in my house.”

“no, he didn’t, nonni.”

“he does. he stole a knife. he stole money.
i no understand why
your mother want to be
with those Indian peoples.
it’s good you look like her father.”

4. (my father’s way of saying how bad pain was)

“i’ve got a headache
that would kill a white man.”

5. (at school)

“your dad brought two colored kids
home for the weekend to stay over?”
“did they smell funny? do Indians
get along with them? i didn’t know that.”

6. (at the office)

“oh, i love Indians! Indians
are so beautiful — i love their feathers
and the way they dance. do you dance?
do you have feathers?”

7. (at school)

“hey brown, how come your sister
looks like a chink
and you look like a wop?”

8. (driving with my dad)

“i’m never gonna marry
a white girl.”

“son, your mother’s white.
it doesn’t matter sometimes.
marry who you love.”

9. (outside a club)

“don’t you really hate seeing these kids
running around with mohawks
when they’re not even Indian?”

10. (in a coffee shop)

“take your glasses off.
oh, yeah, i can see it now.”

11. (at work)

“now that your hair is long,
i can really see it.”

12. (too many times to choose)

“now that i know, of course,
it’s obvious.”

13. (at school)

“i’m really surprised
that you have to shave.
does your father have to shave?”

14. (during a performance review)

“aren’t you a little old
for this? i mean, aren’t you supposed
to have gotten over this, had a vision quest
or something when you were young?”

15. (too many times, too many bars)

“should you be drinking this much,
i mean, you know, fire water and all that?”

16. (at work)

“when your mother makes lasagna,
does she use buffalo in the sauce?”

17. (third week, introduction to anthropology, freshman year)

“so, you’re Italian and you’re Indian?
god, you must have a temper.”

18. (junior year, private school)

“jesus, put away the knife! what are you — crazy?
it’s just a word.  I mean, you are a half-breed,right?
that’s what you are, right?
i’m sorry, jesus, i’m sorry, i didn’t know,
how’m i supposed to know that?
you’re fucking crazy!”

19. (being interviewed for someone’s grad thesis on people who grew up in interracial households)

“so, how do you describe yourself?”

‘i don’t, i guess. not really. not anymore.
i guess ‘poet’ works as well as anything.”

“which side do you get that from?”

20. (first time in Italy)

“my mom’s family’s from around naples.”
“but this isn’t Napoli. why you come here?”
“because i’ve always wanted to see Venice.”
“you should see Napoli. you should see.”
“next time, maybe.”
“yes, next time. something there for you, maybe.
maybe home.”
“yes, maybe.”

21. ( first time on the rez)

“i’m looking for records, anything.
my father was born here, was sent to a residential school
and joined the army after,
he lost touch with every one, never came back.”

“there are no records, though. everything was lost in a fire back in ’67. i’m sorry. you’ll have to do some work to prove it, if you’re interested in being enrolled –”

“no, that’s not it. i just wanted —

“well…welcome home?”

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About Tony Brown

A poet with a history in slam, lots of publications; my personal poetry and a little bit of daily life and opinions. Read the page called "About..." for the details. View all posts by Tony Brown

2 responses to “Total Recall

  • pearlnelson

    I used to live out west where Mormons take Indian children from their homes and have them live in white homes during the school year, which outrages me to no end. This poem is powerful and should be used in teaching. I’m really pissed at Mormons again…thanks to you.


    • Tony Brown

      So funny…I do this poem frequently at readings, and am always struck by crowd reaction to it….some crowds think it’s the funniest thing they’ve ever heard; those tend to be overwhelmingly white audiences. Others gasp in horror more often than they laugh; those tend to be audiences with greater racial diversity. Just an observation…

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