Tag Archives: loss

A poem and places for white people to start fighting racism

People take part in a rally on April 29, 2015 at Union Square in New York, held in solidarity with demonstrators in Baltimore, Maryland demanding justice for an African-American man who died of severe spinal injuries sustained in police custody. AFP PHOTO/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez (Photo credit should read EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ/AFP/Getty Images)
AFP PHOTO/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez
I’m a writer. I take my pain and shape it into words. So today, in the face of more violence against people of color in this country, I wrote a poem.
Racism is not a black problem. It is a white problem. It is imperative that white people educate themselves about racism, listen and validate the voices of people of color, and that we take an active role in staunching the wounds and lifting the yoke.
After the poem you will find links to start doing the hard work of healing the wounds of this country. Join hands. Put your shoulder into it. We can help write a different future.

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW ABOUT WOUNDS

I am gut-punched, hollowed out.
I am grief-broken and angry.
I could list the dead for hours: Sandy Hook, Orlando, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Dallas—
There is ample pain to share.
Daughter, mother, wife, friend. I am these things.
And I have had my heart ripped from my chest by loss.
I know wounds.

This is what I know about wounds: they do not go away.
I will always be the mother of a dead child.
I share this with:
Sandy Hook
Orlando
Philando Castile
Alton Sterling
Dallas
We know wounds.

The wound of America is domination
gaping, bloody, seeping
It doesn’t go away.
We don’t get over it.
We built a country out of human flesh.
That is a fact.
And now—

A wound does not heal when it is
ignored: you’re okay
demeaned: it’s not that bad
prayed over: this is part of the plan
unshared: not my problem
A wound untended goes into sepsis

and the system—that body with the beating heart—fails.

So hear me:
I see the bodies.
I see the guns.
I see our flesh-country seething, suffering, dying—
And also trying to live.

This wound:
It is not okay.
It is worse than you imagine.
No good God planned this.
It is my problem.

It is my problem.
It is my wound.
Our wound.

This is what I know about wounds: they do not go away.
But they can be carried.
If we
see
listen
struggle
claim
If we do these things—
the living flesh can bear the scar.

Here is the homework:
Advice for White Folks in the Wake of the Police Murder of a Black Person
Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person
30+ Resources to Help White Americans Learn About Race and Racism
Six ways white people can help end the War on Black People
It’s My Job to Raise Children Who Are Not Only Not Racist But Actively Anti-Racist
Black Lives Matter – A Reading List

On Ghost Ships and Loss

ghostship

When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I saw, as if prescient, the life we would share—a voyage laid out upon a map of the future, our ship heading out to sea. And then there was death, and our ship rode the waves half in and half out of life. She could not remain with me nor I with her no matter how desperately I wished it.

Our vessels diverged, hers ephemeral and moon-pearled, upon waters I could not travel. She bore away the life I believed we were meant to share. My own craft, war-beaten and barely seaworthy, foundered.

As I limped sail-tattered and broken-masted on a course set by winds that refused to listen, I watched the ghost ship that carried my daughter. Across the swells, I saw her grow into a plump-limbed toddler, her auburn curls twisting in the sea wind. A lithe girl, easy with laughter.

And when she was no longer visible in the distance, I watched the ship as long as I could in the broad expanse of longitude and latitude.

I can no longer see the ghost ship.

I did not follow its course.

I can not imagine her fourteen-years-old.

I could not live that voyage.

— For Esther

With thanks to Cheryl Strayed and Tomas Tranströmer for writing about ghost ships and grief.