They always knock with questions and promises. They assure me that checking these boxes will only take a few. forward. minutes. But time winds serpentine when so many voices crescendo with each box that asks me to fit inside.…
To illustrate that dynamic identity, I used the refrain of “If I check this box” to reflect the recurring negotiation of marking a government form, inherently taking risks in order to participate in “America.” We feel deeply the danger of the stories that will be told about/for/against us if we divulge our identities and our truths that lay bare the violence of this country—“serpentine” traumas that make and remake us.
I write “we” and “our” with intention. In “Census,” I connect historically oppressed groups through “tacos,” “Kendrick and Tupac,” and “the Pacific” to show that these boxes should not divide and conquer us, but rather should fortify our solidarity against the systemic racism represented by the omnipresent “you.”
This piece is a response to the “you” that has historically silenced me and my peoples, that has not heard us, seen us, or given us what we needed. For once, instead of saying or doing what that “you” has demanded of me, I call out what “I’ll need.” This use of repetition is a call to action—a refusal to remain silent any longer, a chant to heal and galvanize the spirit to keep fighting even when beleaguered.
JADE HIDLE (she/her/hers) is a Vietnamese-Irish-Norwegian-American writer and educator. She is a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee. Her travel memoir, The Return to Viet Nam, was published by Transcurrent Press in 2016, and her work has also been featured in MQR Mixtape, Southern Humanities Review, Poetry Northwest, Columbia Journal, and the Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network. Follow Jade on Instagram @jadethidle.