and I remember…

An Apologia: In a recent round of President Trump’s tweets and speeches, he has continued to deride his political opponents. Some consider his approach another example of his straight-and-unvarnished-non-politically-correct-speech whilst others, including me, deem his methodology to be an expression of his hyper-racialized invective designed to demean and to demonize his rivals.

During the course of a social media exchange, someone with whom I have engaged in numerous cyberspace-conversations covering a host of issues, asked me: “What has the president ever said that is racist or incendiary?”

Believing the sincerity of the questioner and taking the question seriously, I wrote, in part: “The most recent example is (Trump’s) saying, in so many words, that (Congresswomen) Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Pressley, and Tlaib – all women and people of color – should go back from whence they came…(S)uch language is incendiary, carrying the baggage of racist diatribes going back to the days of institutional slavery, then the Jim Crow era, and then beyond through the period of segregation into the formal Civil Rights Era and beyond…The offense was compounded by the chant, referring to Omar, ‘send her back,’ at the (July 17) Greenville, NC, rally…that President Trump did not stop.”

I haven’t received a reply. Seeking to be rational and fair, I won’t speculate as to why (or, rather, why not).

Nevertheless, I have feelings. As an African American, manifold have been my experiences and in a variety of venues of being discounted by white folk as underserving of a response.

These feelings, I claim as my own…

These feelings, I also confess, stir up deep and abiding resentment of not being acknowledged as a person…

lightning bolt

These feelings are the stimulus for the following words, which, to employ the now proverbial early 19th century phrase, came to me as a bolt out of the blue…

+

my right eye, 2-14-17

Thru my hazel-hued eye

– tho’ black, as is my skin (tho’ fair, black, too),
when beheld by America that,
tho’ increasingly brown,
still is held (down) within a two-century+ old hegemonic hold –

I gaze at my garden

and I remember
the fervent verdant leaves and grasses
running fast, far surpassing my vision’s end,

but, here, ev’ry tendril is dry and withered;
no blade of green shown of any known shade…

and I remember
the brightest reds as brilliant suns,
setting not on the horizon, but moored in the earth,
fragrant, standing tall of stem,
beckoning, welcoming words of wonder…

and I remember
the boldest oranges, hefty and sassy,
succulent fruits begging, by hungry hands, to be taken,
and then deliciously partaken…

and I remember
the richest yellows,
golden buds as cheerful coins;
Earth’s wealth at my fingertips,
ne’er to steal, to uproot, to take
for myself, but only to leave for the sake
of the enjoyment of all.

but, here, the ground brings forth no glory.

What I remember is my long-ago,
spare, tho’ still embryonic days
in Afric’s clime;
before I, in the fettered limbs and battered bodies
of my forebears,
was brought to this world in chains,
which, here, tho’ invisible, remain.

And this land canst not yield Nature’s wonders,
for it hath been bathed in too much blood;
the only water, my tears
and that, not enough.

Yet this land hath been and is mine
and I cannot be sent back.

3 thoughts on “and I remember…

  1. Dear Paul,

    This touches my heart so deeply and so painfully. I wish so much that there were a balm that I could offer to the wounds you and so many others carry just by virtue of your ancestry and the skin that ancestry blessed you with. (I do believe you are in the deepest sense blessed, even though with blessing comes the accompanying curse of unjust, unearned, damnable judgment by those who know not a whit of the worth and dignity and wisdom that lives in you.) I cannot now write what I would like to write in response to the feelings I have reading your poem, but I am so grateful for your honesty, for your courage, for your perseverance. I am so grateful for your still trying to teach us what it is like to live as the man you are and experience the things you have experienced and do experience. I will live with your words for a while; I will sit and be quiet with your words, and I will learn from them. Thank you, dear, dear friend, for being willing to share them.

    Much love,

    Karen

    Like

  2. Paul,
    This made me cry! Like Karen I was deeply moved…The sheer power and authenticity of your words Blew Me Away. I’ll simply say thank you and I stand with you!

    Love you

    Like

  3. My dearest Karen and Loretta, I thank you, beyond the power of my conveying, for your kindnesses unto me.

    This poem was tough. Not to write, for, again, as I intimated, it came to be as a bolt out of the blue (one moment, I was thinking about something else [which I cannot recall], and then, in the next moment, these words came and flowed forth. However, it was tough to read and upon which to reflect after I wrote it. As oft is the case for me, something – a thought, a feeling, or both – will occur/arise and I am not quite sure why. In such cases, it usually takes conscious reflection and, as I’m wont to say, a bit of luck (for, sometimes, it is in an unguarded instant when I no longer am thinking about whatever it is about which I was thinking, that the “Aha!” revelation will come and I say, “That’s it! That was the genesis of those words!”)…

    In this case, and for that reason I wrote the “An Apologia” (or an explanation), it was that social-media discourse and the lack of a response. For years, aye, all of my life (and, in that, I suppose, for the rest of my life), I’ve struggled with acknowledgement and acceptance (neither of which entail agreement with me, but rather taking note that I exist). For this reason, I’ve made it a conscious effort to take note of others, e.g., learning and using their names, acknowledging their entrances and exits at meetings, social gatherings, etc., and asking about their spouses/partners whenever I see them. I know now that my focus on these things harken back to a childhood in a household where I was not seen for who I was and who I was becoming (and might have become). Long ago, I forgave my parents for they, as the proverbial saying has it, did the best that they could with what they knew and desired (and I do not mean that in a patronizing, dismissive way, but rather one of the acknowledgement and acceptance that I craved and for which I still long).

    All this said, that is what I missed in that social-media exchange. And, in posting the poem, I labored long over the “An Apologia,” for it was and is important to me for me to claim my feelings and not to blame anyone else for where I was left emotionally…

    Okay, dearest sisters, I know you didn’t need all this, but, clearly, for whatever reason(s), I needed to write it.

    Always, loving and thanking you,
    Paul

    Like

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