Poetry Friday: Uncomfortable Spaces

I’ve been wondering,

and to say this is difficult,


in fact,

you may not want to read on.

You might want to go on with the business at hand.


the “implicit bias” created by historical patterns,

making our brains assume,

affecting our think-do-say

keeping the walls in place.

and you away from me.

Because of my whiteness.

(There I said it.)

And here’s my wondering,

can we connect by

redefining our belonging?

poetry friday logo

Our racial divide has been on my mind for a long time. We need to talk about it, notice it. This morning I listened.

First to an On Being podcast that featured john a powell, Director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society and Professor of Law, African American and Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley.  What a brilliant man. He speaks of identity and communication. That we are all one and that we need to acknowledge it. Talk about it.

“We are connected. What we need to do is become aware of it, to express it….The human condition is about belonging. We can’t thrive unless we are in a relationship. (we need to) reframe our relationships with each other.”

And he brought up questions that offer some entry points.  Space to have discussions.

How do we acknowledge that connection?

How can we make belonging infectious?

How do we learn to care for each other?

And this:  “We must reflect on our deepest values to find our way of connecting.”

We are a nation defined by race. To ignore it is to ignore who we are. Proximity, contact and relationships; listening and valuing others. Noticing and naming and celebrating the connections that are being created.

The fastest growing demographic in the United States is not Latinos. It’s actually interracial couples and interethnic couples. That’s people themselves right now, not tomorrow, trying to imagine a different America, trying to say, “I can love anyone. I can be with anyone.” So I think we start looking for it, we see expressions all around it. Oftentimes, they’re not celebrated. They’re not talked about. There are no structures for them. So we have to embrace them and lift them up.

Absolutely. Lift them up and acknowledge the change that will lessen the divide.

Then, I listened to the podcast titled “Words that Shimmer” with Dr. Elizabeth Alexander.  In it she speaks of her growing up in a very educated, political family and her road to poetry.  This poem was written during her years at Harvard.

Ars Poetica #100: I Believe

Poetry, I tell my students,
is idiosyncratic. Poetry

is where we are ourselves
(though Sterling Brown said

“Every ‘I’ is a dramatic ‘I'”),
digging in the clam flats

for the shell that snaps,
emptying the proverbial pocketbook.

Poetry is what you find
in the dirt in the corner,

overhear on the bus, God
in the details, the only way

to get from here to there.
Poetry (and now my voice is rising)

is not all love, love, love,
and I’m sorry the dog died.

Poetry (here I hear myself loudest)
is the human voice,

and are we not of interest to each other?

— Elizabeth Alexander

Poetry is us. It’s noticing, listening. And that can create caring about and for each other.

Because I believe yes, we are of interest to each other.

3 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Uncomfortable Spaces

  1. There is so much here to think about. Your oem got to me. I was that lone white person when I was in high school. It was hard to make friends. Race has become such a strong issue these days. I’m not sure yet if that is good or bad. Thanks for opening my eyes and being brave enough to talk about it.

    • It is a hard thing to talk about, and I admit, this was not easy to publish. Writing the poem got me to the place where I could start though. Perhaps that is an avenue to use.

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