Poetry, musings, observations, commentary, rants, confessions...and who knows what else!
- Name: Bird
- Location: San Francisco Bay Area
Teacher, writer, poet, grandmother, lover, wine-drinker, chocolate eater, beach comber, hiker, traveler, Giants fan, San Franciscan. All work on this blog is copyrighted material.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Sunday, February 11, 2007
If I use my daughter as evidence, racial identity is determined by cultural identity. But who determines cultural identity? Cultural identity is socially-constructed – but that construction seems to include not just the individual’s view of self, but society’s vision of that individual as well. Which vision holds primacy?
One of my students told me Obama is “high yellow.” But he isn’t really that – for “high yellow” implies, at its core, that somewhere back in the Obama’s family lineage, a black slave gave birth to a child conceived of a white slaveholder. The signifying aspect of high yellow certainly a question of blood – but it carries with it the cultural history of black oppression in this country. Taking that history into consideration, Obama is not high yellow.
In his short essay, Just Walk on By, Brent Staples, an African-American writer, describes his experience walking in public spaces – and how whites cross the street when they see him – afraid of a black man walking the streets. These whites didn’t see an educated man, a peaceful man, a man perhaps just as fearful of them as they are of him. They saw a large black man and associated him with a multitude of negative stereotypes. If we didn’t recognize his face, if Obama were to walk the streets of any city in the US, would we, would I, as a white woman who has lived and breathed the racism inherent in our culture, be afraid of him as he came around a corner on a dark night? Would I, would other whites, see Obama not as a man just walking, but as black man encapsulating all the negative stereotypes white society associates (whether we are bigots or not) with black men?
Does how Obama is viewed by white society matter more than how he is viewed by black society? By even suggesting that because he is viewed by whites as black (and all that implies culturally), am I saying that it doesn’t matter how the black culture views this man, only how the white culture views him?
And yet, if the dominant culture views the man as black – doesn’t that then mean that he too is shouldering the burden of the past? And is that not what some black critics claim bothers them about Obama – that he has not suffered the same oppression as the other members of his cultural family?
But in the eyes of his stepsistahs and brothas, Obama has been if not favored by the dominant culture, not historically abused by it either. And that makes him not black. (Obama is, in Dickerson's words, as close as you can get to black, and in Cobert's, lately arrived black.) But apparently, he can never be truly black – he will always be on the outskirts - that red-headed stepchild, perhaps much loved, but never, ever quite a full-fledged member of the family.
Oh, how strange is the collision of race, culture, and politics in this country.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Taking Off Emily Dickinson's Clothes
(I offer this poem by Billy Collins for ThursdayNext, Percy B. Silly, me, and my daughter.)
First, her tippet made of tulle,
easily lifted off her shoulders and laid
on the back of a wooden chair.
And her bonnet,
the bow undone with a light forward pull.
Then the long white dress, a more
complicated matter with mother-of-pearl
buttons down the back,
so tiny and numerous that it takes forever
before my hands can part the fabric,
like a swimmer's dividing water,
and slip inside.
You will want to know
that she was standing
by an open window in an upstairs bedroom,
motionless, a little wide-eyed,
looking out at the orchard below,
the white dress puddled at her feet
on the wide-board, hardwood floor.
The complexity of women's undergarments
is not to be waved off,
and I proceeded like a polar explorer
through clips, clasps, and moorings,
catches, straps, and whalebone stays,
sailing toward the iceberg of her nakedness.
Later, I wrote in a notebook
it was like riding a swan into the night,
but, of course, I cannot tell you everything -
the way she closed her eyes to the orchard,
how her hair tumbled free of its pins,
how there were sudden dashes
whenever we spoke.
What I can tell you is
it was terribly quiet in
that Sabbath afternoon,
nothing but a carriage passing the house,
a fly buzzing in a windowpane.
So I could plainly hear her inhale
when I undid the very top
hook-and-eye fastener of her corset
and I could hear her sigh when finally it was unloosed,
the way some readers sigh when they realize
that Hope has feathers,
that reason is a plank,
that life is a loaded gun
that looks right at you with a yellow eye.
Take a look at this lovely chapbook – it’s out of print, but
oh! How I wish I had it.
Sunday, February 04, 2007
Check it out. It's a lovely post. I particularly love the the way some of the letters fade out, creating interesting associations with the letters that are left plainly visible (aria and aerie - both quite suitable for the subject matter of the post's picture).
But beware: bird bashing and eagle bashing will not be tolerated. Neither here nor there.
Thou shalt not bash birds on a blog,
nor sitting on a log,
nor flying in the sky,
nor dipping wicks in lye.
Thou shalt not say cruel things about eagles
not even if they are dancing with beagles,
not even if they wearing bangles
or red, white, and blue spangles.
If you bash a bird,
beware, have not you heard the word?
Your eyes will be pecked,
leaving no trace, not a spec
no color, no tears
you'll be blinded for all the rest of your years!
So do not bash birds here
do not bash birds there
Do not bash birds anywhere.