By John Choe


What happens to a dream deferred?

Maybe it doesn’t dry up,
Like a raisin after all.

But ferments,
Like a pot of kimchi.
Maybe it sizzles,
Like a hot pan of bulgogi.

Does a dream deferred explode,
like a Samsung phone

Or last forever like a Twinkie?
Yellow on the surface and white inside, right?
A ching-chong chink painted with artificial colors,
sponge cake injected with xenophobia
that never expires.

Didn’t you call me a Twinkie,
while you planted a fun house mirror in front of me,
casting white guys in yellow face,
buck teeth, taped eyelids,
a sibilant Asian accent—
Is this what you see in me?
Maybe we can pull the white out of whitewash,
And pour in yellow to add more color.
I want to be the hero
In the next 
Indiana Jones,
hear my voice narrate like Ray Liotta in Goodfellas.

Maybe we have enough Buddhas and Gandhis,
And not enough Genghis Khans.
Do we need more leaders
who sip blood for breakfast?
Will the textbooks teach you who I really am, then?

Does a dream deferred cut like a surgeon following
dotted black lines on a teenager’s face?
Creating a perfect double eyelid,
or an Angelina Jolie nose?

Since apparently I’m so good at math,
let me explain an equation I learned growing up:
Stereotypes + self doubt = prejudice,
the square root of which is irrational fear.
Now, multiply that by systemic discrimination
and you get y over x to the power of racism.
But this equation is unbalanced.
Some of these variables don’t cross-cancel out.
America, we have a problem.
and it’s bigger than a multi-polynomial,
more complex than E equals MC squared.
America, we have a problem,
and you can’t find the answers in the back of the textbook.

My mother always told me “ 아들, you have to fight your own fight
before anyone will care to help you.”
So let me pull out my Samurai sword,
I am not your Chink,
I am not your Jackie Chan,
I am not your math homework answer key,

And I am not a Twinkie.

I am a dreamer who sleeps on many great ideas,
I am a Korean
I am East,
And I am West,
I choose to not trade my heritage for
scan, copy, command + P, clone models on billboards. 

You have force-fed me pills to keep me asleep
From my dreams through this land,
But my alarm just went off.

it is morning, and I can smell the homemade sweet sikhye from my bed,

I am ready to wake up.

John Choe
JOHN CHOE currently attends Larchmont Charter School in Los Angeles, Calif. He has received a Certificate of Appreciation by the City of Los Angeles for his writing, and his work has also been published on