The following poem will appear in my memoir, Riding Shotgun, a work in progress that gets a small but steady amount of attention every week. If one uses the “birthing” metaphor for book writing, then I’d say that the rough draft is entering it’s third trimester. I’m hoping to tie up all the loose ends and create a moving finish by December. In case you are wondering, “it’s a girl!”
A Person is Not a Country
A person is not a country
not a food like tacos
Not a pigment like black or white
or brown yellow red
or blended shade that forms in the development of
skin organ inside the womb.
A person is a person and not a piece of cloth
draped over brow and face,
I always wonder how those stay in place.
A person is a person and not the region of their origin,
the place where runaway slaves found freedom,
the place where snow falls on a child’s dark eyelashes,
lace against delicate petals.
The place were breath is visible, where cocoa steams
from styrofoam cups on the sidelines of the high school football game.
Where you speak the way it sounds funny and strange in the south.
A person is a person and not the weapon they carry,
hidden, disguised, or blatantly worn in the open,
that sign of fear.
A person is a person and not the poverty they are running from,
like you did, Dad,
when you kept on going to school even though your mother
those horrid, open wounds,
the eating away of her flesh when the cancer crept out to the surface,
and you were there carrying her to the outhouse
and she cried of embarrassment
because you were her boy,
A person is a person and not the car they are driving
while you sit shotgun dreaming of another kind of life to be living
away from all the things you think you need to be or say or do
to win approval and security and pride and acceptance, and literally,
Be shameless in your skin
and leap from atop the racing stagecoach
when you find that you’re passing a lovely garden
reminiscent of Eden.
Let the shotgun fall where it may.
A person is a person and not the lies they tell
nor the penance they long to be released from.
A person is not their sadness
nor longing nor disappointments, nor even their passing joy.
And a person is worth the same worth as the next,
born today, born yesterday, born in the future,
struggling to survive.
A person is a person and will change at a rate
faster than a country organizing revolution
or deciding to save what’s left of nature,
the life sustaining provider
they assume will recover and be generous to us
after the slaughter and poison and progress.
A person is a person and not a country,
for a moment
even after all that work,
or because of it.