Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Poem by Claire Conolly

This is not my poem. One of my friends knows the person who wrote it and sent it to me after a significant discussion about language and how peoples' attitudes correlate with words... that what people think of something depends upon whatever that something is called or named. Enjoy.

The first time I noticed I was different
Was when Wade leaned over to me in
daily mass and said,

Look, white girl. The priest is about to eat one of your friends.

Up until that point, I was five years old.
Everything was technicolor. I returned
to class that day colorblind--things were
either black, grey, or white. I was
the only one like me in a room of 33. I
hadn't ever noticed. I had not yet felt

We spent the whole month of February
cutting out pictures of Martin Luther
King and pasting them across the room.
We learned about dreaming. I was glad
that he had saved me from slavery. On
the 28th, I raised my hand and asked
my teacher excitedly if March was White
History Month. I couldn't listen to the
birds chirp for weeks, everything I heard
sounded like laughter.

Eventually, I distinctly knew who was Puerto Rican,
Mexican, and African-American. This
mattered. I always wondered where the country
of Caucasia was on the map. If I found it,
I could show everyone where I was from. I
knew it would make me proud. This time,
however, I had learned not to ask any questions.

I wore two push-up padded bras over my
AA cup breasts from 6th to 8th grade.
I remember a boy asking me out one day
in 5th grade just so he could dump me in
front of the class, stating it was because I
"had no ass."
I bought bronzer and fake tanning lotion
and put it on nightly.
My classmates called me 'orange.' I decided
this was a step up; at least it was a color.

I didn't remember my skin ever hurting
Michael, at least not while I was in it. I
didn't know why he had a bat. I remember
the nurses hands, they were soft like my
mother's. I never noticed their hue, just
how they felt on my chin as she looked
me in the pupils. She concluded,


It was the nicest thing I'd been called in
weeks. She asked me what happened.
I remembered the way Michael's smile
struggled with itself, how the rage almost
overcame his satisfaction, and how the
conflict created a snarl in which the ends
of his lips upturned while he pressed
the center of them together conclusively.
I still recall how I reflected in his eyes-how I hated
that I could see myself so brightly, how
I didn't think to run or fight, just observed
that I needed a little more bronzer.

I told her I ran into the monkey bars.

When I finally entered high school and learned that
there was a thing called "white privilege,"
I wondered where I could get some. I resented
the other light-skinned kids in my class- they
were so oblivious, so clean, so entitled. They
expected me to wear their clothes, talk just like
them, have rich parents. They wanted me
gentrified. They would say the 'N' word when
greeting each other. It sounded like a swinging

I would see them when I looked into the mirror.
I would tell myself
I deserved it.

No comments: