She Thought Perhaps Azalea

My troubles are so damn small

in comparison to cities burning;

they are not the world’s troubles

like the anger, anguish

and outrage bursting

from the inside out

of our cities and our towns,

our neighborhoods broken,

our people destroyed.

And as much as I want

to claim them as mine

to feel a solidarity,

I know I am a pale outsider.

Sitting on a bench at the playground

next to a beautiful brown mama

and her precious, brown baby boy,

tears welled up in my eyes:

the weight of my privilege

too much to carry today.

Wanting too much to seem casual,

I glanced out at the green grass,

sun-dappled through enormous, beautiful trees,

the pink and white flowering bushes.

“Do you know their names?” I ask.

“Are those Rhododendron?

I can never be sure.”

She thought perhaps azalea.

She saw my tear-filled eyes,

and I gulped, and mused

at the beauty all around us.

I could not ask a total stranger

How to talk

about Race in America today.

I just sat on the bench with her

and adored her little son,

and breathed in and breathed out

and tried to will our world to do better.

She laughed at my boys and their antics.

We had the common ground of motherhood,

which I’d always thought could not be under-rated,

but see that I will never

have to worry over mine

in anywhere near the same way

as she will worry for hers.

I kept wanting an entry into conversation

that would give me the chance to prove

my worthiness as a non-hater,

that would give me a reason

to enumerate my encounters with hatred,

with me and my black friends on

this side, or list my affiliations,

the amazing men and women

who I have considered friends, roommates,

family. But there was no segue

from clapping, chubby baby hands

to any deeper issues. And my brushes

with color do not give me,

do not begin to give me…

I only know the outsiders anthem,

I do not carry inside me the root,

the flower, the core. The baseline

of this descent, the chorus through

the ages, through the cages,

through the caged and chained,

the families broken,

The stand up tall – no matter,

The don’t cry – does not matter,

The run, the hide.

I never knew run.

I have never known hide,

nor life or death,

no one to trust.

I talk to cops, I have flirted

my way out of tickets.

I know nothing.

I stand helpless on the outside

knowing f*ing nothing.

Knowing beautiful babies

Grow up to be target practice.

Shoot. Fire. Aim.

Think later.

Cover up.

Photo from here

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