This morning I learned that Speaker Man had a truly not-cool interaction with another black man at one of these meetings several months ago. I learned this as I was on my way out the door because …
Today was a Girls Write Now workshop day. And today’s genre was poetry. And I was thinking about Speaker Man and his shenanigans. So, when it became clear we were going to write poems in the voice of some person or animal or object, I knew I was going to write as Speaker Man. And then I remembered a wonderful poetry exercise I did a few months ago, writing one side of a conversation. Then, after lots of pre-writing and discussion, we got to the “Compelled to Speak” exercise and had to actually craft our poems. And so …
Compelled to Speak
You say you notice a pattern?
In my behavior?
I know myself.
I know what’s in my heart.
Any “pattern” you think
you see —
that’s about you.
I sleep well at night.
I can look in the mirror and like who I see.
Whatever pattern you see,
that’s your imagination.
I have black friends.
I have a black friend.
And if you asked him about me —
How long have I known him?
How do I know him?
Does that matter?
I think you’re straying from —
What’s his name?
Do you think I don’t know his name?
Well, I don’t know his name, exactly,
but we get along fine.
He doesn’t care
what I call him.
Well, I call him “Chief,” or “Boss.”
Well, of course I know your name.
I’ve confused you with Margaret?
Have I? Called you her name?
Talked to you about her program
as if it were yours?
Don’t be so sensitive.
I meet a lot of people.
Sometimes I get confused.
none of this creates a pattern.
Why do you have to make everything about race?
Why are you so angry?
And then we did some small-group reading and discussion and everyone wrote out questions they had about each poem, things they wanted to hear more about. One of the questions I got was: What was the tone on the other side of the conversation? Is it your intention to let the reader decide?
To the second question, yes. Yes, I want the reader to imagine what the other speaker’s tone might be. For the first question, I wrote a second poem during the final workshop activity:
Do I make everything about race?
Okay, maybe. Probably.
But would I have to
if you didn’t shower me in microaggressions?
You’re right — I’m so angry.
I’m always angry.
I’m glad you can hear it.
Do you think
I enjoy making everything about race?
I would rather
talk, just talk.
I would rather live. Just live.
But you brought us here.
You let your inner white supremacist out.
You brought us here.
And you’ve got me by the throat,
so I can’t help but follow.
I’m not particularly fair to Speaker Man here. (Big surprise.) He’ll have to write his own poems if he wants kinder treatment.
I, in all my stubbornly-proud not-a-poet-ness, like both of these. Not because they’re great poems, but because it was a great exercise, thinking about what confronting Speaker Man might have been like was a great way for me to think through yesterday.
It’s the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge, hosted by the wonderful people over at Two Writing Teachers! Every day this month, hundreds of writers will be posting their stories. Head on over and check out the other slices!
FYI: My apologies to anyone who subscribes to the blog who got a message about a different post this morning. You may have clicked over here and found there was no such post. Yes, that would be what happens when I click “publish” instead of “save draft.” I hadn’t written much of that post, and then I went to Girls Write Now and was inspired to write a whole other post, so I’ll get to the “Leland” post tomorrow.