Radicalization

By Maanasi Shyno

My parents wait with me in ICE for a whole day

They say we can’t just leave to India for the funeral without permission

I don’t understand why the US won’t naturalize me already


My old classmate tells me our acquaintance is five months pregnant

She’s starting to show and she visited the nursery teachers

I wonder where all the pregnant girls at my school go


My leader for the City District program asks us to dress up

He takes us down to a session of City Council and cameras are everywhere

I am pulled into a publicity stunt without consent


My global politics teacher shows us 13th the year it comes out

He teaches us what evil looks like outside of fiction

I stop pledging allegiance to the flag


My patients in Long Beach tell me about their pain

They teach me more about oppression than I learn about medicine

I think I’m interested in healthcare, but that’s not what draws me there at all


My manager tells me to keep going when my shoelaces snap

He says it may be the last day of the campaign, but every vote counts

I still believe politics has to be about picking between two evils


My friends and I head downtown on my birthday

They marvel at the number of unhoused camped around City Hall

I am not able to stop staring


My lab partner groans when we’re stopped by canvassers at the corner

He doesn’t know that I also ask for signatures in my freetime

I can’t engage in politics any other way


My old boss sends me an article about the candidate we got elected

He is caught up in some gambling mess

I laugh in disbelief because of course he is


My professor teaches us about foreign aid in Afghanistan

He asks if anyone knows anything about interventionism

I realize how frustrated I am with American terror


My university with a six billion dollar endowment says that it won’t lower tuition

It claims it can’t pay employees without collecting the same amount

I can’t even act surprised anymore


My sister listens to a podcast about Tara Reade

She weeps and plays it again

I see her scowl at Biden on the television screen


My employee needs a break after a xenophobic phonecall

He forgets to turn off his camera and grits his teeth

I wonder how I never noticed all the racists in California


My mentor tells me about the student union

She recommends radical texts colleges don’t assign

I start reading and have never felt so awake in my life


My sociology textbook says 20 to 40 percent of the houseless work

It tells me that minimum wage is not a housing wage

I stick a note to my wall so to remind myself everyday


My peers ask me what party I’d belong to if I was a citizen

They guess I’m liberal, but really I’m too far gone

I am moving left on a spectrum that seems to get lonelier the further you go


My first-gen mentee thanks me for helping figure out her aid

She is the epitome of the child left behind, four years post-Obama

I don’t know how to tell her she is changing my life


My soul echoes Davis’ advice to imagine revolution

It says dream of a different future, or there’s no point to abolition

I try to imagine, but it feels like I haven’t done that in years


My trippee tells me she isn’t worried about inaction

Because she knows she will do good work after law school

I wish my hands didn’t itch so much


My classmate responds to my anti-capitalist critique during discussion

He builds on it in ways that make me smile

I note that I am in good company


My advisor is cautious when I tell her I’m dropping premed

She asks what I want to do instead

I ask myself why doing good is so hard and pays so little


My pseudo-older brother is honest about wanting fast cars

He tells me not to close any doors with my bleeding heart

I understand, but I don’t know how else to live


My mind tells me to move move move

It also wonders what I should be doing

I read, cry to Tracy Chapman, and wait.


Hello world, it’s me, Maanasi. I’m calling to tell you I’m a radical. Yeah, really. I decided you are far too cruel for me to be anything else.