I wrote a poem a few nights ago, a sequel to Ancestors Unfold and Your Black History was the plan.
The poem is a survey of my personal history with people who are black. It begins five generations ago (thanks to a candid family history exchange with my mother about our Guadeloupe ancestors), and ends with Marcel’s birth.
Here is one stanza that appears about midway through remembering my first and only African American public school teacher. I grew up in Northern Virginia.
My fourth grade teacher is Mr. Bullock.
He has an Afro and wears a brown three-piece suit, with wide cuffed pants that swish.
He walks tall, manly seemingly surrounded by all those older white women.
Exudes this I’m taking up this space wide as his arms will go.
He shows me that Jupiter does not need rings around it, has its own kind of magic,
when my smudged styrofoam ball display looks pale in comparison to the others.
He stops moving in the hallway when I shout something out, and gets up in my face
to explain how I must never use a word when I don’t know all that it means.
The rest of This Black History is not ready for the outside world. For me to opt out of sharing something here is unusual.* It is part of the new balance I’m after, part of the me that is committing to the difference between process and product.
Of course, it’s not just the poem I don’t know what to do with. It is the feelings that came up for me, as I dug deeper into my own body’s history of nonchalance, ignorance, fear, shame, and prejudice. For more on Peace and Justice in the body, please visit dear friend and massage master worker Sage Haye’s site here.
When you rebuild a structure that is decrepit don’t you remove all the pieces that are no longer useful, and work with all new building material? So how do we dispose of old thinking from our body? How do we always follow the directions to the new ramp to the highway, instead of going the way we’ve always gone before? Or, is there only one ramp to the Now Highway from where I live now?
Sitting alone with the dis-ease that came up from the writing of the poem was palpable. Several days later, and this has moved into the place of next steps again. As in what are mine, and what am I here to do this time around. I woke at 4:45 this morning, feeling a new way into this post that I have been crafting for three days.
Creating my new Engaging with Black History era, and writing about that all the time, and not just in February feels like a good start.
[*Note: I made myself a promise over the weekend, that if I am not ready to say it out loud, then it doesn’t go here, or on a comment section, or tucked away in some nook that only some people might see it. This came about when I read an exchange on a blog that was angry and hurtful to both the postee and the poster.]
It’s so easy to post every word we write when we “own” the blog, but it takes insight and patience to hold back on a piece before its time.Your post, and the piece of the poem you did share, displays courage all around.
I agree with Christi. One of the reasons I set a structure for my blog is to prevent me from spewing daily brain dumps, which would be very easy for me to do. I think Twitter and FB and blogs offer us so much in the way of communication, but it often prevents us from exercising that ever important self-edit part of the process. We don’t want to stifle creativity or be afraid of making bold statements, but as writers we should care about the quality of the writing and take care that we are truly saying what we mean.
I loved your poem (or the part I read) and thank you for sharing it.
P.S. Add Vive La Paris by Esme Raji Codell to your reading list. It’s middle grade, not YA, but it explores a fascinating relationship between a young African American girl and an elderly Jewish woman. Esme is a great writer.
“When you rebuild a structure that is decrepit don’t you remove all the pieces that are no longer useful, and work with all new building material?”
My friend, you are very wise. You have given me so much to consider in this one line-as a whole, as a person, as part of the Universe. Thank you.
Thank you for all the feedback on this post/poem/choices within. It was a hard one to let go into the world. Hearing from you all makes it land so much softer.
i look forward to seeing the rest of the piece. and yes, history, whatever the type, should be celebrated every single day of the year.