Resistance Poetry
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Resistance Poetry

Can I Feel You Black?

The following poem was inspired by reading Jesmyn Ward’s new book, The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race. Barely into the book I felt such sad angst pushing my emotions all at once into a poem suddenly startled in my mind by the phrase, ‘Can I feel you black?’ The angst comes from being white and having the term, “white privilege” shoved down my throat too many times. I didn’t choose my white skin, any more than a black person chose their black skin.

I weep for the Hispanic women in my Northern Colorado college town sent to the streets by their unemployed husbands to beg for food for their families. I weep for centuries of racism and prejudice in America that runs like a scratched record and we can’t seem to figure out how to fix it. I weep for all of us who have fallen into a swamp of stereotyping with too much mud in our eyes to see the truth. If we don’t work together to solve the problem of racism, there won’t be a solution.

As James Baldwin succinctly wrote many years ago, “If we — and now I mean the relatively conscious whites, and the relatively conscious blacks, who must, like lovers, insist on, or create, the consciousness of others — do not falter in our duty now, we may be able, handful that we are, to end the racial nightmare, and achieve our country, and change the history of the world.”

Can I feel you black
in my white soul?
My heart bleeds
its ruby red
blood same as yours.
Jesus wept.
and wept and wept
for the callouses
we grow on our hearts
and the walls we build
between us.
Can I feel you black
in the spaces between us?
Anger is the color
of your heart
that explodes
like a riot gone bad
till the color of my skin
rubs you raw
and every white person
becomes your hate.
The knife in my heart
becomes the knife in your heart
and our hearts
bleed ruby red together
in humanity’s river-
and Jesus wept.

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Verse as Commentary

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Sheryl Martin

Sheryl Martin

It is suffering that shoots streams of creativity out of my heart, and the brokenness of life that explodes my heart into its soul.

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