living numb

IMG_5456i remember the first time
as if it were yesterday
eight months pregnant
a walking watermelon
slowly moving
through the heat of a southern summer
framed by carolina blue skies

on the stale humid air it came:
“look at that nigg**”

and there they were
four – blond haired – barely teenaged – males
sitting on the sidewalk
one embarrassed among them said:
“hush, she might hear you”
tired and burdened
i kept moving

i
said
nothing
it was the south
it was where I lived
1988
so what if it hurt?

i remember
i was the divorced single mother
of the first grader
who emerged from that belly
a beautiful boy
for whom i swore
life would be different

although knowing the world
i made no promises

i remember
he lost his lunch money
the one dollar bill i gave him
because i was too tired
of making his daily lunch choice
of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
i was tired of fighting every day to live

she, in his first month
in the first grade
sent a note home
“Patrick had no money for lunch today”
attached to an application
for free lunch
he had no lunch that day

i remember
i showed up to school
the next day
determined to say: i don’t qualify for free lunch
i said: “he lost his lunch money yesterday”
she, Ms. White said: “I thought you needed assistance”
“So, you let him go hungry?”
what else is there to say?

exhausted before the first bell
i walked away

i
said
nothing
it was the south
it was the school
1994
so what if it hurt?

i am more grown these days
i am wiser
i am older, a few grey hairs
no more southern life to live
no more little white boys to avoid
in apartment complex parking lots

those little boys are grown men
running businesses
attending meetings
preaching in churches
more unpleasant than they were
in the summer southern sun
in 1988

i remember
a Tuesday morning
me well dressed
ready for travel
ready for another meeting
full of god-talk to end
i smiled as i exited the elevator
i smiled as i entered the lobby
i smiled at the people i knew

and then he said:
“as you were coming this way pushing your suitcase
i thought you were the housekeeper”
he laughed
at least he called me by my name
that grown white male

i
said
nothing
it was Chicago
it was the church
2017
so what if it hurt?

the weariness sets in
with the addition
of one more story
my anger bubbles at boil
every time some white woman
redirects my experience

“I have never seen him act that way before”
“I wonder what he was thinking when he said that”
“What did you say to make him say that?”
with disregard for my personhood
rendering me invisible
as she buffers for him

again

the tiredness drills slowly into my bones
when the politeness
of hate filled words
and prejudicial rhetoric
fall into the silence
of Jesus filled rooms

my body hurts

every time
the words hit
the dismissive tones land
and i know
there is nothing to say

amidst the institutional amnesia
and selective memory
i remember
the silence of the chosen
i remember
the silence of the ordained
i remember
the silence of the women

I!
REMEMBER!

this is living numb
to ignore the pain directed at
being black
being woman
being different

anesthetized by silence
drugged by indifference
injustice veiled by talk of mercy
sermonizing on loving kindness
consuming tender mercies
while wearing politically correct labels
fiddling with sanctified tabbed collars

so what if it hurts?

it is 2018
the advice comes: “get over it”
the suggestion: “perhaps that is not what he meant”
the burden: “did you ask her why she said that?”
the response: i claim my numbness
my protection against the blows

there is nothing to say
no story too dreadful
no experience too awful
no encounter too alarming
‘cause all can be explained away

so what if it hurts?

KGAT
16 July 2018
15:24
American Samoa

Contact bytherivers13@gmail.com for permission needed to use.

One comment on “living numb

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