Nora Meiners writes as the white mother of a biracial son, reflecting on black male bodies and the perils that attend them.
How Will I Know When I Am in a Body?
They are doing a family unit
this week at my son’s school.
He is asked to draw a diagram
with all the members of his family
at the edge of the page is a rendition of the cat
that lives with him at his dad’s house
underneath the kitty is the name, “white folks.”
It is true, that is what his dad calls that cat.
We adopted a pair of Persians together
about 10 years previous
one black, one white
initially we called them
Crockett and Tubbs
because we were that kind of couple.
As the life we built together unraveled
he began calling the black cat, my peoples
and white kitty, white folks
we stayed too long in that unwound skein of yarn
I should have mended more.
When my son begins to make a gun with his finger and his thumb
Who do you know that plays that way?
Where did you learn about shooting?
no one plays that way
I learned it from my heart
when something is dancing hard and fast on my heart
it makes that noise
peeeew, peeeew, peeeew
shooting is like a bowl in my breath.
And the next time someone asks me
do we carry historical pain from past generations into the next?
I answer an unequivocal,
I ask my son, what hurts in your body?
I don’t know, I have never been in a body.
How will I know when I am in a body?
He is seven and got the exact Nerf Sonic Fire Blaster
that he asked for on his birthday
his scowl is still a childish pout
so I don’t say anything
I don’t say anything because double his age
and this is a different conversation
I don’t say, ask your father
though I could
and maybe I should.
I don’t say once you know
there will be folks that will never let you forget.
I don’t say when you cry out, I am
instead of just knowing you are.
I give him a little more time
in that out of body experience,
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Photo by Nora Meiners