Repentance

I want you to be angry
but your anger scares me
You are not overly sensitive
but I have been sensitized
to ideas that aren’t there
to violence and black men’s arms
and ripped muscles strangling
the air from white girls’ lungs
overpowered and taken by the dark
I want to be angry
that I can write these words
without thinking
that I can spew prejudice
from my lips
with as little effort as breathing
I want to be angry that your dark skin
reminds me of that playground bully
who wouldn’t let me go down the slide
when I was six or seven
because then he wasn’t just a child
like I was just a child
he was a little black boy
and he was mean to me
And it’s easy to be angry
at you
because the TV tells me it’s okay
because anger begets anger
and if you’re already on fire
then I can douse you in flames
But I’d rather be angry at me
that I hold these strings together
when I want the tapestry to unravel
that I hold onto these scars
when I want my wounds to heal
because I want to be sensitive
but not desensitized
so I suffer by your side
for all the harms I have inflicted
for all the lives I have ended
for all the people I haven’t seen
for all the voices I haven’t heard
for all the hands I refused to hold

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Smells Like Teen Syrup

When the suds ran red against my forefinger and thumb
I dropped the sponge and inspected the dishes
for any crimson stains
before I rinsed my hands and tended
to my cut. I remembered
how many times I had stood at this sink
with a sponge in one hand, a knife
gripped in the other, its silver steel
glistening
in the fluorescent light
like a moonbeam, a dreamscape
a promise for releaselet the blood
drain like dirty water
let it swirl and puddle
toward its inevitable end
How many times
did I pull away the knife
set it aside, soapy and smirking
at my own weakness, fearing
the pain, the tear, the scars
I’d have to hide. Was it shame
that became my shield?