thing inside us we carried along, that couldn’t be readily seen
until we opened our mouths or made an unconscious gesture. Otherwise,
we crossed from one world into
one world easily.
What we maintained on the other side was what was difficult, what
we still held internal (voice). What we developed among our own
until our own would not claim us.
What we were was left to the definition
of others, blind or sighted if they took the time to recognize. Voice.
I remember the water fountains, my small reflection pale in the porcelain
glistening. Yes, I was on the sidewalk.
Yes, I crossed
the avenue. But I still couldn’t live on either side of the street.
In the end, we all became the colour of sepia—became film stock
that yellowed through decades.
Until there are no races.
There is black culture, white culture, and a culture of the homogenous.
My ethnicity remains the element of the disenfranchised—the “shop looks”
when I walk in the shop door,
the transom bell ringing, the “shop look” when they see me. No matter
how long it takes,
that look always
comes to gaze on me. Then, you tell me what race, what culture I am.
Some stripes don’t show. We pass, sometimes. We go home
to ourselves, sometimes.
In the mixed silence, then, we can give
Nicholas Samaras My first book won The Yale Series of Younger Poets Award. My next book, AMERICAN PSALM, WORLD PSALM, is forthcoming, Spring, 2014, from Ashland Poetry Press. Individual poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The New Yorker, Poetry, New York Times, etc.