Sometimes being in the United States
Is like walking barefoot
Over broken glass,
Or walking on hot sand.
Having a conversation with someone
Who doesn’t get a thing about me
Feels like being brushed by nettles.
Am I even wearing clothes?
Everything gets through!
The climate here is chilling.
Where am I?
Is this still home?
Where did all those corners come from
That I keep bumping into.
I’m not accident prone;
It’s the environment that has become
The news is acidic and keeps coming back up!
It’s like someone installed an invisible fence:
I keep getting zapped.
Yesterday I was listening to someone’s story
About how they dealt with a pest
And my heart skipped a beat
When their supposedly amusing story
Morphed into a confession
Of unconscious cruelty.
Like a splinter
Burying itself in my unsuspecting hand.
Or simply seeing what they’ve done
To places that used to be beautiful
Feels just plain shitty.
My native land can be a very painful place to live,
And I’m an educated White man.
I can’t imagine what it’s like,
Can’t imagine what it’s like,
Can’t imagine what it’s like
To be a person of color
In this sharply angularUnited States
of broken glass
and invisible fences.
This poem came out of nowhere. I don’t know why I started thinking of all the ways life can be hurtful or painful. . .in ways that are not always shared because we aren’t supposed to be that sensitive. But then the obvious dawned on me, that compared to people who face racism and bigotry randomly, all the time, and at every turn, I don’t have much to complain about. But then I had to look at how the reality of my socially-sanctioned White-privlege is a source of pain. . .Plus I’m still thinking a lot about how there are much healthier, less painful places to live, than the United States. If this had occurred to me, as an indisputable fact 20 years ago, I might have left (jumped ship), when I was in my 40s but at my age I’m just going to stick it out and try to contribute to much needed change in this weird, hurtful, raw place that lies between Mexico and Canada.