Sunday, April 28, 2013

Baby Powder

It's been a long time since I've written a poem as hard to write as this one.  It came to me pretty much fully formed, so it only took me about 45 minutes to get from idea to the form you see it in now...but emotionally, it is a little more difficult.  It's one of those poems that just had to be written this way, even though I'm not 100% sure I understand why it is the way it is.  I'm vacillating on the title.  Part of me wants to call it "Baby Powder," and another part of me wants to title it "Forgiveness."  I'm not sure yet.

Anyway, this is a poem about many things, really, but was "inspired" (poor word choice, but it's the best I can come up with), by something that happened Thursday evening.  I'll just copy and paste what I posted on Facebook: 
"So....I just had 2 valuable lessons emphasized to me. 1. Always trust your gut. 2. Always lock the doors of your car after you get in. I went to the grocery store this evening to pick up a few things, and came out of the store around 9. Walking to my car, there were 2 young guys on cell phones walking to their car. For some reason, they made me uncomfortable, so I walked quickly to my car, unlocked it, and got in the drivers seat with my bags because I didn't want to take the time to put them in the back. I locked the doors as soon as I sat down. Less than two seconds later, the guys got to my car and tried to open the passenger side door and the rear door behind the drivers seat. Finding it locked, they knocked, laughed, and ran away. I'm sure I'll stop shaking at some point."
This was difficult on several levels, for several reasons, and it's left me in a difficult place for a few days.  I'm hoping the writing of this moves me forward. 

Baby Powder

If I see them again, I will not scream.
I will not walk quickly to my car, lock the doors, and sit there shaking,
I will not let myself be frozen.
Will not sit there idling with clammy hands,
will not beat unholy war chants into my steering wheel,
will not call out profanities as I drive away.
If I see them again,
I will not punch or kick.
I will not decapitate or castrate,
will not make violent threats of persecution or incarceration,
will not draw hidden weapons from purses, pockets, socks,
I will not cry.

If I see them again, undressing me with x-ray eyes,
if I walk through the parking lot, the alley, the bar
with crawling skin, I will not hide.
Will not turn my fear into shame,
will not question my right to safety,
will not think about the time, my clothing, the level of light.
If I see them again, I will not drown in emotion,
will not convince myself that "dirty"
 is a parasite under my skin.
 will not turn my anger inward
I will not own their ugly.

If I see them again,
groceries or drink or keys in hand,
I will turn to look them in the eyes.
I will take a breath,
and tell them a Buddhist nun once told me
the best way to keep ants out of my kitchen
is to spread baby powder wherever they come in,
so I have baby powder lining the wall in my kitchen
because I believe in this life too much
to be responsible for pain.

If I see them again,
I will ask them where in their body their privilege swells.
I will ask them if the beat in their ears is their heartbeat or mine.
I will remind them
that when we hold seashells to our ears, we call our heartbeat the sea
and perhaps, the air surrounding us is a giant shell
to let us listen to the heartbeats of those we would never stop to hear.

I will ask them if they have felt the noose of fear around their neck.
I will ask them if they have heard the breaking of their own soul
felt it oozing from their chest, like grape jelly seeping from a cracked jar,
slow, sticky, and cold as death;
 I will ask them if they felt this life leaving them,
and if they wondered how they could possibly stand, broken,
knowing the people who broke them breathe the same air,
feel the same sun,
count the same stars in the same damn summer sky.

If I see them again,
I will ask them if some days,
sharing a galaxy with hatred
suffocates them, too.

I will ask them quietly if they have a sister.
I will ask them again, louder, if they have a
mother, a grandmother, a great-grandmother, an aunt, a daughter,
a girlfriend, if they dream of having a wife or a daughter,
and if they do,
I will ask them to picture their girlfriend, their mother as me.
I will ask them to picture their someday daughter,
to see her, pure and beautiful,
and to picture her with my face.

If I see them again, I will ask them if they have heard
the sound of their own head cracking against a wall.
If they have heard the sound of whispered hate masquerading as shabbily dressed love and attention,
I will ask them if they have felt the shroud of ugliness covering their bodies
I will ask them to describe the texture, color, and smell of shame,
and when they cannot, I will want to introduce them, intimately,
just so they can feel her weight. 

If I see them again, I will yell random facts
until I find the one that strikes a chord on the strings of their hearts:
I will ask them if they, too, have double jointed thumbs,
if celery also makes their mouth numb
if they make wishes on hay trucks, lady bugs, stars,
I'll tell them I wish on the 3 stars in the belt of Orion,
just because they're the ones I can always find,
that I'm allergic to bees, that I love trees and swings and
praying to things I don't believe in and cannot see...
and when I find the one thing in common between him and me,
I'll make my voice quiet
like lightning under the thunder of my heart.
I'll back up slowly - return to the start -
Did you know, I'll ask them, that I have baby powder on the floor of my kitchen?
A Buddhist nun told me it's the best way of keeping ants away
without killing them.