Love Your Neighbor

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In July, I wrote a poem every day. Some of them were great, while some, unsurprisingly, were godawful. I went back and reviewed them today, and discovered one that I don’t think is really great poetry, but that I need to give voice to today.

I combat shame at the ways in which this poem is not enough: not saying enough; not smart enough; not poetic enough; not positive enough; not nearly as good as everyone else’s words. And so I post it, because I. Am. Enough. And you are, too.

This may not be helpful in the ongoing engagement with racism present in our communities. But sometimes, you just need to get something off your chest. Here’s my mourning song to America.

Love Your Neighbor (If He’s Like Yourself)

 

There are many Americas.

 

The one I tend to live in now is mostly white,

but it’s white people who know that racism exists,

who do their best to combat it,

who still need to work on their ability to see it

but who know they don’t always know.

 

But I grew up in

isolated small town white racist sexist xenophobic Anywhere, USA.

Where Muslims are coming to take your guns,

so everybody has to have one,

where boys in skirts ought to get their ass whupped

because who would ever want to be like a girl?

 

Because girls are either sluts or prudes or old

and therefore invisible.

Because virtue, and we know that means VIRGINITY,

is the only thing that makes girls valuable.

 

Because Mexicans (and they’re all “Mexicans”)

are dirty and lazy and slow,

in this place we don’t see them either,

we don’t let them be whole people

with their own dreams and goals,

only their skin or their accent.

We avert our eyes from their souls.

 

In this place, work isn’t work if it doesn’t make you sweat,

children should be seen and not heard,

ways never examined. How we do things is set

in stone like God’s word,

and only WE know what that is. Us alone.

 

From this town, there’s no escape

for most of the people I’ve known.

They spend all their time justifying their elders’ crimes

so they don’t have to feel the pain

of this legacy in their bones.

They drink till they can’t think

of all the hate that’s been sown,

and they sleep with each other’s wives

(see, the women are still just objects)

and celebrate their unexamined lives

as whole generations are wrecked,

as they eat lies of heritage,

and pass them on to the next generation.

Their fixation on damnation

leading to a blinding devastation

they never saw coming,

though it’s of their own creation,

because it’s so satisfying,

this Other-condemnation.

 

Oh, America.

 

If only this face of your many-sided die

was small, marginal, a hidden, shameful side,

instead of the one front and center, full of pride.

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