The Only White Woman In the Room
I like these black and brown women
and they like me. So when they said
Come With. I said, Okay. Sure. Why not. Make no mistake,
this isn’t even a poem
about seeing something, being something—
it’s not even a metaphor about what I didn’t know
or where I journeyed to or where I come from.—
it’s just a story about not knowing
on this particular evening in the early part of winter
when we all gathered in the big ball room
of the university which sits on the edge of the desert
gossiping about the big boss and how this work place
just won’t give us a break and how
we really should be moving on soon;
when these beautiful women, dressed like angels of God,
in flowery silk dresses that float across the room, a hymn of grace
rising out the mouths of a church choir; when these women
whose spiky heels on bare tile announce
a woman of consequence is coming towards you.
So that’s the scene. Got it?
My friends are talking and laughing with me
before the speeches start and while I’m sipping my drink, and then
now this is the part where you must pay attention—
at this precise moment and for no reason at all
I suddenly notice I’m white—
what if they notice how white I am?
then, in a panic, I want to tuck in my whiteness
like it’s something stuck on the back of my shirt and
I should try to fold it all in—all that whiteness—
‘cause I don’t want to be embarrassed by something
it feels like I should control. Still and much later
when I recount the story, making fun of myself as I tell it,
and my Latina friend just smiles at me and it’s then
I finally stop talking.
Moon Star Looks Into the Night Sky and Sees You There
Breaking the boredom of unemployed hours,
you drained the last Bud from your last six pack when
she showed up, asking Do you want to party?
That girl, the one who calls herself Moon Star,
giggles she as climbs into the front seat of your Chevy.
Now a sleek Mustang pulls up alongside,
honking at the two of you. In this desperate night.
when all the cars cruise up and down Van Buren street
and every radio station is blasting
“Angel of the Morning”— over and over—
you just want to hurt somebody.
You open your mouth. The Mustang takes off,
its triple plated Mag Wheels glinting
under the halo of a street lamp
like the eyes of a saint lost in ecstasy. And now she kisses you
and it’s more like a dare than a promise.
The scent of lavender soap in her cotton blouse mingles
with the smell of a wet dog. Red blotches
the size of whole continents erupt on her neck and shoulders.
Suddenly she clears a spot on the foggy windshield,
I want you, she says taking off her bra, to take a good look
she whispers, unzipping her too tight jeans,
at the stars in the heavens, and now
the night sky is really spinning. See? she says,
it’s Orion with his spear—
then pushing her hand deep inside your pants, oh Lord!
how she laughs.
Sometimes the beginning and end of a word
whiz( )zes on by me so quickly
it’s as if
I’m standing on the side of this long road
when it’s been raining all day and all night and
I’m pulling my rain jacket cl( )ose to my chest,
shoving my hands in both pockets just to keep warm,
wondering, now, which way I should be going,
three short bursts of a pneumatic whistle
from this 12 geared, turbo charged, 40 ton, 80 foot MACK truck, screams
and I jump into the weeds, stepping on broken glass and now
all I know is
something big is about to pass me by,
heading for the mouth of the dark tunnel
which is buried underground and beneath the riverbed ,
and the thing won’t stop
for anyone or anything and now
all I can do is guess at what it all might mean
when the steel disc wheels crush through the puddles,
the diesel exhaust slaps the side of my face,
when there’s only the head( )lights,
then the only the tail( )lights, and
every( )thing in( )between
but swirls of dust and fog.
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