Race in America – poetry we’re not ready to write

Race in America

It’s at times like these you make me remember you’re white

When you burst into the house demanding “who?”

Who left “the trash” in the street!

“What trash?” I ask. But I already know.

I just want to see if you know

You’re interrupting my work at the computer.

Do you even see me?

You vent a mouthful of words but I only see your face

The blue veins pulsing in your pink temples

Frustration of a child who wants to know

Why he is in trouble if he wasn’t told.

“It’s alright, I was trimming the hedges. I’ll pick it up later.”

You demand assurance that I am really going to pick it up.

Now you’ve gone too far. I know my mouth is moving

But I don’t know what I’m saying, I only know what I’m thinking.

No, I don’t even know what I’m thinking

I only know what I’m feeling.

Onminiscient, I know

This is a tempest in a tea-cup.

This is pent up sexual frustration.

This is you telling me I better get my black ass

Back out there in the street and clean that mess up!

No, I’m sorry. I apologize. That wasn’t what you said.

Of course not, that last bit was all in my head.

Tread carefully. There will be another tempest.

Much worse. Feelings will get hurt.

Some things America is not ready for.

Never will be. Burry them deep.

The intersection of race and gender is a street

So dark we don’t want to go there.

We spent thirty five years cultivating our precious love.

We built it on respect. Do you hear me, RESPECT.

The kind that forgives,

the kind that overlooks each other’s frailties.

Then why do I keep wanting to go there lately

To that street? That dark, dark street.

Test the bond, see if we’re ready.

For what?

For that next conversation where there is nothing but shame.

I want to know if you are really unaware of all the little things that you do.

I want to know if I’m just crazy!

I want to know if this sense of in-fe-ri-o-ri-ty will ever go away

Will it always fester, and rear its ugly head?

No. Only when your unconscious sense of superiority

Forgets itself and calls me on the carpet

To account for sins of omission.

You want to know, does my love for you

Make me forget who you are?

Can I see you yet?

Little boy, wanting to know, if he’s in trouble

For not doing his chores.

Are we there yet?

Don’t act so surprised.

You knew we were dancing around this for thirty five years.

You didn’t?


Rhea Harmsen

Copyright 2012

About rheaharmsen

Rhea Harmsen is a scientist, novelist and author of Language of the Spirit, a volume of selected poems. She has also released three novels, The Harvest of Reason, Intermarry, and God Created Women. Harmsen was born in a family with a black father and a white mother at a time when interracial marriage was still illegal in some states. Her parents gave her a vision of world citizenship that informs her writing and her lifestyle and has caused her to reject traditional views of race and gender. Harmsen's article "Science in the Hands of Women: Present Barriers, Future Promise" appeared in World Order in 1998 and provides the foundation for the story line for her novel The Harvest of Reason. She co-published the Monroeville Race Unity Forum Bulletin and authored many poems on racial topics, crystallizing the "conversation on race" in the novel Intermarry. Her work with domestic violence survivors in Puerto Rico inspired the novel God Created Women. Harmsen holds a doctorate in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She currently resides in Puerto Rico. Upcomming projects are described in her web page at rheaharmsen.com
This entry was posted in biracial, equality, feminism, interracial marriage, national discussion, poetry, race, unity in diversity, women's history. Bookmark the permalink.

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