Person of Color

July 12, 2013
By Davina Lee SILVER, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania
Davina Lee SILVER, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania
5 articles 2 photos 1 comment

In another age, you and I
tried, but could not make peace with unfamiliarity.
Yellow festered to a slur in your mouth;
never mind that to us it meant power and holiness,
the color of emperors, the birthmark on our bodies
as children of the mighty dragon.
Never mind that in honesty, we held our skin
to the pale of the moon or the soft brown dust and
thought it the same:
we too curled our lips at you,
laughed at these white foreign ghosts in our fields,
your hair and eyes blazing in strange pigments--
red like our fruit, green like our mountains,
blue like our great clean sky--that never belonged on a body,
that were surely a mistake in your making.

Today I carry this turmoil in my memory,
but not in my blood. My ancestors have etched their legacy
into my cheeks and nose and eyelids,
but these veins are mine alone, to color as I wish.
I have chosen to love hair golden as the morning
and eyes gentle as dusk, which have painted my childhood
and taught me that vibrance can easily frame your face,
bright and true and beautiful.
I know, too, that if I laid you out and peeled you open,
I would find a crumbling core of borrowed rot
for Death's long fingers to grasp and draw back to itself,
the same ugly weight that lingers black in me
and steeps my days in bitter weariness.
That has always been our problem, after all.

Perhaps someday, you and I,
we'll work the rich ground side by side,
colorful children of the same father
with new light blooming from our hearts.
We'll hold hands and never wonder
at the complement of our skin, at the reflection
of the dark earth, and the tender flowers we'll leave behind
will sing our ancient, blood-filled stories
in a thousand lovely hues.

The author's comments:
As an American Asian, I feel blessed to live in a land where racism is frowned upon, but I've still occasionally experienced subtle discrimination that troubles me. Perhaps a better word would be "generalization," the lingering tendency of society to group people together and make judgments (positive and negative alike) based on race rather than individual character. It goes both ways between the white majority and ethnic minorities, and it's always struck me as terribly wrong, despite being rather understated in practice. I've written this poem in response.

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