Portrait in Black and White


United States
39° 12' 44.3016" N, 84° 24' 5.4288" W

I tack a portrait of you to the classroom wall
Gorgeously lit in the the frame of a window
Appear in the grays and blacks and whites of the photograph
Peering questioningly at all who view You.
She, some ignorant young woman from the same city as you,
Who stands before me
Pale, tall, thin, blue eyed, hair bleached to the color of cornsilk.
--Thought You must be some poor unfortunate girl from another country.

Why would She make such an assumption?

Perhaps because of your dark eyes and hair and face
The way you had thrown a blanket over your head to create a hood.

According to this woman.
A photograph of a dark skinned woman with her hair partially covered must have been taken in a different country?
--And looks poor.
--What part of this portrait makes You look poor?
The window light.
The lack of dirty or worn or torn clothing.
The look on Your face.

She assumes
Her Culture--
Her Society--
Is not--does not contain
And wearing a hood or having dark skin or hair or eyes--is certainly
Part of Her Society.
Her Culture.

In truth, I cannot understand why She does not recognize You--
She knows You.
She holds conversations with You every day.
She passes You in the hallways and on the street.
She knows Your name.

And yet--
She seems to believe that the image before Her
Does not exist in Her Country.
In Her State.
In Her City
In Her Home.
She knows You in passing--
But to Her--
Your Problems
Your Realities
Your Skin, Hair, Eyes
Your Life
Does not exist in Her Country.



Poem for Scholarship Slam

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