Wednesday, 08 December 2021

American Life in Poetry: Doppelgänger

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

Humor in poet­ry does not always soft­en the blow secret­ed with­in a poem.

Michelle Peñaloza knows that a tiny grenade sits in the mid­dle of ​“Dop­pel­gänger,” a seem­ing­ly pass­ing com­ment, but one full of all the vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty, shame and com­plex­i­ty of fam­i­ly lore and our culture’s painful truth: ​“it’s more like­ly she is/​racist.”

But there is, in the poem, a ten­der­ness that lies in the poet’s appre­ci­a­tion that her ​“tita” is more than this. She is also a myth, a sav­ior, a queen, and more, she is tired, and in this she is Oprah’s ​“dou­ble walker”.

Doppelgänger
By Michelle Peñaloza

It upsets my tita
that people think she
looks like Oprah. She says
she wants to be a queen
in her own right. I think
it’s more likely she is
racist. Or maybe she doesn’t
want the rest of us to expect
a car (!) and a car (!) and a car(!).
Or maybe my tita is tired
of being a savior and a myth.


American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2020 by Michelle Peñaloza, “Doppelgänger” from The Georgia Review, Winter, 2020. Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2021 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W. Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.

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