A Million Paper Cuts: A Poem about Microaggressions

Kayla Kim Votapek
2 min readJan 5, 2021
Photo Credit: Septian Simon
Photo Credit: Septian Simon

On the train
I check the news
Another hate crime
More attacks
I get a paper cut.

On the streets of NYC
I hear men calling me
“China Doll”
“Be My Orderway Bride”
Another paper cut.

Walk through the doors
Take a seat at my desk
I look around
Code Switch. Code Switch. Code Switch.
Be thankful.
Another paper cut.

Turn on the computer
Check voicemail
Check emails
Voluntold again
Another paper cut.

I start to work
Trying not to bleed
Keep pushing
Be strong.

Lunch time
Home-cooked food
“What are you eating?”
Paper cut.
“Can you say it in Korean?”
Paper cut.
Another cut.
“You are so cultured”
Cut. Cut. Cut.

Go back to my desk
To be anywhere but here.

Time to prepare for the team meeting
Make coffee
Find the water bottles
Print the agenda
Set the room.

People enter
No acknowledgment
Another paper cut
They sit
They talk
They don’t ask for my opinion.

I want to scream
I want to be heard
But I can’t seem to find my voice
My throat closes
The room closes in
I am falling
Cut. Cut. Cut. Cut.

I think of my ancestors
And the leaders who came before me
I feel their spirit around me
I use it to find my strength
“Take a breath”
I can do this!

I turn the computer off
I walk out the doors
Onto the streets of NYC
Another guy
Another catcall
Another paper cut.

On the train
I look at the news
Another headline
Another life gone
Another cut.


I walk into the bathroom
Turn on the lights
I stare in the mirror
I see a face
I don’t recognize it
I see the hurt
The cuts
I start to bleed.

Death by a thousand paper cuts they say!
Death by a thousand paper cuts every day!

Craving to be distinguished
For My Mind
For My Heart
For My Soul
And Not My Skin.