'She says she wants to be a queen in her own right'

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Humour 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 saviour, a queen, and more, she is tired, and in this she is Oprah’s ​“double walker”.



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 saviour and a myth.


American Life in Poetry 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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