Unravelling and weaving, sometimes simultaneously

Archive for August, 2014

Passe Blanc

They have a word for it here
“passing for white”
because it is not antiquated
even if the privilege should be

I do not know
having been bleached from birth
from the brain down
to ignore that I am brown
that I am red
that I am anything but white
if there is a term like that
for me

I do not know
what it was like for my father
who grew up in an adobe
the first son in a large family
of an alcoholic
poor enough to lie about his age
so he could work to support
his mother and siblings
proud enough
he took classes to lose his accent
yet refused a fellowship
offered him based on his brownness
who shook off his Indian roots
because shit rolls downhill
even for a lower class
brown boy

I do not know
what it was like for my mother
who grew up in the south
the product of such blinding whiteness
there was no room for color
of any kind
who was disowned by her mother
for marrying my father
who insisted I only check the Caucasian box
on any form I completed
who taught me to look past skin
but wouldn’t let me bring
my black friends home
for sleepovers
who thought she was past prejudice
but collected mammy kitsch

What I do know
is that I check all the boxes now
I talk about it
I do not simply let people assume
I am a cracker
who is more liberal than usual

I look
and I see
and I weep for
all the children
those that are reared to think
they are better by privilege of birth
those that think that no matter
how good they are
their skin makes them unlucky
those that are afraid
to speak who they are
because maybe riding the line
has some form of protection
if they can just pass inspection
and be deemed
to have the good hair
to be fair enough
to have the right speech
and clothes
and obsequiousness
to be safe.

(c) RCGA 2014

Guardian

I met a guardian angel once.
He was sitting on the curb
outside a gas station
whittling a stick
with a pen knife.
His hair was in his face,
and there was no glow about him
as he hunkered
shirtless in his overalls,
dusty brogans planted wide.
But I knew he was an angel.
When he looked up
I could see thousands of years
in his eyes.
No diaphanous lace or serene smile,
but honest sweat
and the weary tolerance of a warrior,
the practiced vigilance
of someone trained to protect
and serve.
I didn’t give him away.
Their jobs are hard enough
without the distraction of notoriety.
He was carving a small eagle,
paying special attention
to the feathers
in its spread wings.

Bald Eagle

(c) RCGA 2014

Baptism

When I was seven,

swept along in Revival

fascinated by pearls

falling from the mouth

of an evangelist

into the scalding water

of a backwoods baptistry,

I was immersed,

sunk into the hot wet hallucination

by my father’s hand

over my mouth and nose.

Symbolically drowned

the sound of sinking

cushioned a bubble of music

in my ears.

It could have been

the voice of my mother

or my sister

or one of dozens of others

singing an anthem of praise

as I was sacrificed

in a glass-walled pool

that southern summer noontide.

Perhaps it was a mermaid

weeping over pearls

that never were.

When I was raised up,

shivering in the sluice,

I couldn’t hear the voice anymore.

(c) RCGA 2014

Two Kinds of Chaos

I’ve heard

on pretty good authority

that the Universe

began in Chaos.

That would be the first kind of Chaos,

the kind

full of potential

the kind

made of an excess of unmarked ingredients

that with the right amount

of creative motivation

and direction

turns into something organized…

turns into a flow

you might never have known

was Chaos in the first place,

or is just organized Chaos now.

Then

there is the kind of Chaos

that people like to make themselves

out of the flow

by inserting themselves

caterwampus

into something everyone else understands

as organized

yanking and pulling

stirring and beating

against the flow

until

Voila

they produce a wriggling mass of Chaos

someone else

or a lot of someone elses

must use

a great deal of energy

to nudge back into flow.

These caterwampus flow folks

will loudly protest those

who go with the flow

Their claim is that Chaos

is the origin

and therefore should be the goal

of the right-thinking

There’s also folks

who spend more time

chasing the caterwampus

than letting things be

They think the Universe

can’t manage without them

that their intervention

is crucial

indeed, is so creative

it rivals any creativity

any creator could produce

or has produced before.

Amazing!

But for me

there is something golden

I can hear

that tells me to wait

something that resonates

something I can hear

a hopeful note

in all Chaos

a tone vibrating

across creation

that eventually —

with or without intervention

swings us all into the spiral —

sometimes in spite of us.

Chaos was here before we arrived

and it’s doubtful

our efforts to restore it

or organize it

make a difference either way

except for inflating

our impression

that we control something.

(c) RCGA 2014

Patience

If Patience is a virtue

it is the hardest one

to develop

the most difficult to maintain

nearly impossible to teach

even by example

Sometimes it is taken for inaction

or disinterest

by observers

Sometimes it even stimulates

impatience

in others

It takes fortitude

to be patient

Dedication despite distraction

But the hardest kind of patience

is being patient

when you don’t know

what you are being patient

for.

(c) RCGA 2014

Malaise

I haven’t felt like talking much lately;

processing,

processing.

I don’t question

how much stress I can deal with,

for both experiential

and superstitious reasons,

not any more…

why tempt fate?

I live in interesting times,

but I am also charmed

in many ways.

Charms are not always lucky,

you know.

Surviving can be

cold comfort

for the broken.

There are nights I dread lying down,

and mornings I fear arising,

times when worries and dreams

meld together

into a perpetual miasma

of angst.

There are long spells of time

that I consort with ghosts —

not spirits passed,

of which there are a few

surrounding me —

but the revenants of life instead,

the ugly fears

attempting to manifest

pushing into my consciousness

trying to force me to scream.

But I won’t.

I hold my tongue.

I close my eyes when they appear before me,

open them again when they invade my dreams,

maintain my silence,

scrabble for peace,

just a moment,

an instant

of peace —

of freedom.

The pain is the simplest to deal with

because it reminds me

I am alive.

The rest?

The rest tease me into wondering

why I still am.

(c) RCGA 2014

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