Sunday, August 24, 2014

What's Up With That? (Performance Poem)

I am not black.
Now, this means alotta things, and I’d like to think
That the only one of those that really matters
Is that I’ve got less melatonin in my epidermis than some.
I’ve got more than others, too, enough so’s I can pass for a few different races,
But I’m not.
I’m white.
And if you know anything about the world at all, you know
That that means more terrible things than just
The physical chemistry of my skin
It means more than just
What kind of places I can blend in;
it means I’m a circle confronted by a brick wall full of circle holes
it means I’ll never know what it’s like to know
that one day I’ll be stopped by the police,
and if I reach for my wallet just a little too fast
if I show any fear for what’s happened in the past
More circle holes, this time in my skin.

I’m not black, but I am a woman,
and although at first the two might seem categories so
Yawningly different they don’t even relate as opposites,
I’m a woman. I know what it’s like to know
that every move you make can be interpreted
in a hundred thousand million billion trillion
ways more than you intended.
I know what it’s like to stand military-stiff with alertness as
The possibilities of the game flash through your mind,
If I do this, will they think that?
If I do that, will they think this?
If I
move my arm, if I
flick my hair, if I
shift my weight, if I
frown, if I
meet their gaze, if I
ignore their eyes, if I
put my head up head down shoulder straight shoulders round
my heels on the pavement clicking out the sound
of judgement
feather-light on me compared
to the gallows-weight of some
but judgement falling
Girls read body language well, not
because we’re wired differently, but
because it can be a matter of life and death.
Black boys
Read body language well
Not because they’re guilty,
But because it 
a matter of life and death.

So when people ask me, Hey. You’re white,
and privileged, and
you ain’t never been the subject of direct discrimination,
you’ve only met men twice who feared no recrimination,
you know good people, you have the right skin,
you’re part of a legacy, you’re cashing in
Why do you rant about injustice? What’s up with that?
I say, Yes. Yes I am. I fit through all the white holes in a wall that blocks the road to luxury
(and if it doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about this that freedom of choice is on the other side of that wall, that respect is on the other side of that wall, that peace from harassment and freedom from poverty, sound education and critical skills are on the other side of that wall, then really, I’ve nothing more to say here)
but I’m also a woman, and I don’t fit through male-shaped holes
and I’m privileged, and I’m lucky,
but I’m not stupid.
I can read the shape of the writing on that wall
I see the multitudes of people it reduces.
And I say
It’s not strange that I care about injustice.
It’s stranger that you don’t.
So what’s up with that?

Monday, August 18, 2014

What do I want you to know?

I want you to know that

No matter how hard you try

There’ll always be times when you fail

I want you to know that

No matter how many times you get back up to face the day,

Night will come again.

I want you to know that smiles don’t erase tears,

that joy doesn’t kill fears, that no matter how

big a person you are,

You will never, ever, ever have hands large

enough to carry the weight of the world.

I want you to know that you will watch

people you love suffer.

I want you to know that love

means hurting for another.

And I want you to know that you can scream and scream and scream until the dying of the light—

And some days nobody will hear you.


But I also want you to know

That no matter how many times you fail,

You can always come out stronger

I want you to know

That no matter how often comes the night

The day will just as surely follow.

And on those Antarctic nights that seem to last for months, not hours—count the stars.

Watch the beauty of the Southern

Lights as they play magic over your head,

vibrant, visible proof that your world is protected from on high.


I want you to know that even when the river of tears runs

too deep for smiles,

even when the fears have you running for miles,

even when it seems as though the world will

crush you with its weight—

I love you.

And love means hurting for another.

And love means growth and growth means pain and pain,

pain hurts. It hurts so bad you

want to scream and scream and scream, because when you know

enough people somebody’s always hurting

And your hands will always be just that little bit too small…


But for now

Just for today

As we sit in a bathroom full of steam and you stomp and clap and sing

Today your hand fits in mine, and

for you I can carry the weight of the world.

Today, I want you to know just one thing, and it is this:

Child? You are loved.