Poet’s notebook: Haiku, “Four elder White men”, followed by a reflection

Haiku

Four elder White men
by a woodstove in Vermont
with an elephant.

At our men’s discussion group last night we talked about James Baldwin’s message about how we carry our history in us, we are our history and if we don’t know that, and know our history, we don’t know ourselves, and if we don’t know ourselves, it is easy to see how our shadow can run things and get away with it because we simply aren’t paying attention. Well, that isn’t exactly what Baldwin said but it’s close enough.

Four of us, white guys, sitting around the woodstove in a cozy, clean room outside the house. No chance of being surveilled by the NSA. We could have talked about anything we wanted. If we had been white supremicists we could have talked that talk. If we had been terrorists, we could have talked that talk, planned our next terrorist act in total secrecy. But we were just 4 educated middle-aged white guys with knitted brows trying to figure out how to live the rest of our lives in such a way that our descendants would be proud of us.

I just saw the documentary, “I’m not your Negro” narrated by Samuel Jackson in James Baldwins’s words: “People pay for what they do, and, still more for what they allowed themselves to become . . . And they pay for it very simply by the lives they lead. The crucial thing here, is that the sum of these individual abdications menace life all over the world. For, in the generality, as social and moral and political and sexual entities, white Americans are probably the sickest and certainly the most dangerous people, of any color, to be found in the world today.”

So, taking this in, let me say again: There we were, four of us, middle-aged white guys . . . with our history . . . the elephant in the room, and we saw it and it wasn’t pretty.

 

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