S is for Shame

I am reading Kim Addonizio’s Ordinary Genius for a Centrum poetry class.

She challenges white poets: why don’t you write about racisim?

I write that we are afraid. I think it is more than that: it is shame. Thinking about her words, I thought about one of my mother’s pieces of art and how it makes me uncomfortable. And that my discomfort with it is new. I wrote this poem.

Race forward

Kim Addonizio asks
Why don’t white poets write about race?

Chickenshits, I think.
Afraid. We are afraid.
My mother called one color Nigger Pink.
She says, “It’s the color that only looks good on black people.”
She looks wicked as she says it and I know that I never should.
She didn’t think she was racist nor a feminist.

One time she says, “Maybe I am a feminist.”
“Why do you say that?” I ask.
“We had a group of women who went to plant trees. None of them could dig a hole.”
“Oh,” I say.
“They didn’t know how to use a shovel!”

She might be horrified how many high school graduates today would call a spade a shovel.

A mentor art teacher says, “Stop being small,” to her. “Get bigger.”
She starts pastel portraits, larger than life.
One that I love is titled “One Fist of Iron.”
Now: don’t lie. What race do you think the person is? And what gender?

Did you guess correctly?
African American and male.

Another friend tells me he is trying to get his father to stop calling Brazil nuts nigger toes.
My mother told me that term too.
And that it was unacceptable.
At my friend’s father’s birthday, I focus my camera on the birthday man.
He holds a bowl of nuts. He says to himself, “I will now eat a politically incorrect nut.” and the camera clicks. I love this photograph because he is 90 and white and reluctantly changing his wicked words.

My mother says there might be hope when a small black child trick or treats her house in black face, in Alexandria, Virginia, in the 1990s.

I think there IS hope, even though the race seems slow and painful and there is so much anger
Look in the mirror, white poets.
And write the words.

One Fist of Iron, by Helen Burling Ottaway

The photograph at the beginning of this is not my mother. It is her mother’s mother, Mary Robbins White. I have pictures of five generations of women with that serious expression. She was the wife of George White, the Congregationalist Minister who was president of Anatolia College in Turkey. They and my grandmother and siblings were escorted to the Turkish border in 1916. George White and his wife were two of the main witnesses of the genocide of the Armenians in Turkey.

Let us not stand by and witness more genocides.

ATOZBLOGGINGCHALLENGE2022 #art #Women artists #Helen Burling Ottaway #ATOZCHALLENGE #APRILATOZ

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Black on white

poem: Black on white

black on white

white on black

it doesn’t matter

angels falling
made to fall
at peace with falling

I let myself fall
at peace with falling

and wonder what that means?

death?

no

though there are times I long
for the Beloved
for union with the Beloved
for all in one
and one all

let go

when an angel falls
they are at peace

they are at peace
with falling

people

see black and white

people

see good and evil

people

separate
label
categorize

angels don’t

black on white
or
white on black

it doesn’t matter
there is no separation
we are one

Beloved

One

coot

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: jet.

I am going to use the meaning of the color jet: jet black. The color is from jet, lignite used in jewelry. Lignite is a precurser to coal. I have a necklace of jet beads from my great aunt.

This coot is jet black in the sun and against the water. Coots look self-contained to me, shyer than the ducks. They look down in the water and make noises to them selves, not like the insistent mallards. They move a little bit robotically. The neurological wiring seems more primitive than the ducks.

it’s natural

Sometimes in clinic, people say, “It’s natural, so it can’t harm me.”

Um.

As we hiked Tunnel Creek yesterday, the forest shifted. We entered a drier section, still in shadow, and saw patches of these black fungi. We enjoyed their creepy beauty and wondered if we were entering a forest of no return.  Even though they are natural, we did not touch, nor pick, nor eat these mushrooms.

black shroom

For the Daily Prompt: black.

I took this hiking in August 2013. I was out sick with strep A pneumonia and it was in my muscles as well. I had been sick since June. Talking made me cough. I couldn’t hike fast, but I could hike.

We were mushrooming, carefully. We found a few black mushrooms. Photographed and left: we only collected edibles that we were solid on.

IMG_20140921_155257.jpg

It was a beautiful and healing hike for me.