The Magic of Whiteness

That title’s a piece of a line from the Lucille Clifton poem I chose as source text for tonight’s Golden Shovel. It hit me like a punch in the stomach. I had pulled six lines from the poem, then used only the first two, not wanting to move past that “whiteness.” And, despite the fact that I’m not finding these Golden Shovel’s easy to write, I set myself an additional task tonight of making the source text words a palindrome: the final words of the lines are the same from start to finish as they are from finish to start. There was no real reason to do that, but it felt right, felt like the ouroboros of racism.

The source text tonight is from the gorgeous volume of selected poems of Lucille Clifton’s poems that was published last year, edited by Aracelis Girmay, How to Carry Water. The poem is untitled. It’s on page 86.

Insistent Ignorance

What's true is that each time we come to this.
Find ourselves up against this core belief,
find ourselves in the same struggle, in
the same truth, the
insistence on the magic,
the all-powerful magic of
The ugly strength of
this deep-in-the-body magic
steamrolls all logic, flattening the 
evidence of history, evidence that should be embedded in
our own hearts: the belief
that we are equal, that we are better than this.

National Poetry Month 2021: the Golden Shovel

As I’ve done for the last forever, I’ve chosen a poetic form, and I’m going to try to write a poem in that form every day for the month of April. I don’t always succeed, but I always give it my best shot. The “Golden Shovel” was created by Terrance Hayes in tribute to Gwendolyn Brooks. I learned about it from my friend Sonia (aka Red Emma). I’ll be using Lucille Clifton’s poems as my starting point this month. Here are the rules:

  • Take a line (or lines) from a poem you admire.
  • Use each word in the line (or lines) as the end word for each line in your poem.
  • Keep the end words in order.
  • Give credit to the poet who originally wrote the line (or lines).
  • The new poem does not have to be about the same subject as the poem that offers the end words.

If you pull a line with six words, your poem would be six lines long. If you pull a stanza with 24 words, your poem would be 24 lines long. And so on.

Should be interesting!

6 thoughts on “The Magic of Whiteness

  1. ” the belief that we are equal, that we are better than this.”

    I have no words. That line just makes me want to do better, each day, because each day, we see how much work is left to do.

    Thank you for sharing this poem. You have a gift. šŸ™‚


  2. Lainie Levin

    At this point, ignorance – it IS insistent. It cannot help but be. With all of the knowledge and discovery we have available to us. It’s the THIS that you keep coming back to in the poem. Each time, we come to THIS. THIS, which happens over and over and over. We are – we NEED to be -better than THIS. THIS, the self-consuming dragon we choose to continue feeding.


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