Blackness, As Meditation


Image by bella67 from Pixabay

Blackness, As Meditation

What can I tell you about being black?

I honestly haven’t the slightest idea.

Sure, whenever I complete a form
that’s nosey enough to ask,
I check the corresponding square,

but I’m just some random guy
born into a reddish-brown shell, and
there’s no option for human doing his best,
given the tattered incomplete playbook
passed down for generations.

Everything I learned about being black
I learned from others, from momma’s
early-warning games that life’s not fair,
the playing field isn’t level,
and the rules are different for folks
who look and sound like us; that the
difficulty settings are disproportionately

skewed; that there are folks who hate me
at first sight, before I could even begin
to hope to win them over
with a smile and a silly joke.

Being black can be tricky, but

what can I definitively
tell you about being black?

You’re better off asking one of my
blood relatives who are black and proud;

I don’t know if I’m not black enough
or not proud enough, but by all accounts,
and my admission, it’s probably both.

I’m amused by the idea of claiming pride
in something I had no control over;
it’s not like I achieved anything; it’s not
like I’m one of the best blacks like Barack
or Beyoncé or K-Dot; I’m just some dude
who popped out of his momma with
reddish-brown skin, a fear of
creepy-crawlies, and a love of words.

Being black can be bemusing, but what
can I honestly tell you about being black?

To be honest, I don’t think about it
very much these days, not unless
circumstances compel me to.

I’m certainly not doing it right,

just ask anybody with the
privilege of voicing opinion;

I don’t speak the language well enough
for anyone; if I’m confident, I’m too uppity;
if I’m insecure, I need to be saved
from my own ignorance; if I’m silent,
I’m one of the sneaky ones; if I’m loud,
I’m one of the angry ones; if I’m

actually angry, I’m a threat
that needs to be stopped by any means
that will most likely withstand
judicial scrutiny.

Being black can be maddening, but

what can I unequivocally
tell you about being black?

It would seem that I’m unqualified
to say for absolute certain.

My chest rises and falls to its own cadence.
I smile big smiles, laugh belly-laughs, and
dream dreams like any other common human.

Tears well in my eyes, and I weep
openly during sappy love stories,
or when a vigilante is acquitted

by his peers for murdering one of my peers.

(Granted, we’re all peers, but my neglecting
to use first-person singular possessive here
could be perceived as not black enough.
Refer to “being black can be tricky” above.)

I have irrational fears of spiders and zombies,
and a hyper-rational fear of meeting
the wrong policeman in a dark alley
after fitting the description.

You know the description;
it’s always the same description.

Being black can be terrifying.

But what can I fearlessly
tell you about being black?

It can be tricky, bemusing,
maddening, terrifying,
all these things at once,

and sometimes, when I’m alone,
staring at the stars above
on the blackest night,

as starlight takes eons to reach
where blackness has already been,
waiting indifferently for it,

it is an absence of all these things,

for when the cosmos
overpowers my brown eyes
with overwhelming proof
of my own individual insignificance,

that is when the truth speaks to me,
that being black is human,
and is but one of many facets
of our collective humanity.

Trigger warning: The video below contains satirical graphic gun violence.

Inspired by dVerse dVerse Poetics: On Shades of Black, hosted by anmol(alias HA). Other writers contributed to the prompt here. I know this one’s in dire need of editing, but I may leave it as is, as it came from an honest thread of thought.

12 thoughts on “Blackness, As Meditation

  1. I enjoyed your meditation on blackness, Barry. I like the gentle humbleness of the lines:
    ‘b…I’m just some dude
    who popped out of his momma with
    reddish-brown skin, a fear of
    creepy-crawlies, and a love of words.’
    That’s one thing that I’ve never understood, how there can be people who hate others without even knowing them. Why should anyone have to ‘hope to win them over / with a smile and a silly joke’?
    My favourite lines:
    ‘My chest rises and falls to its own cadence.
    I smile big smiles, laugh belly-laughs, and
    dream dreams like any other common human.’
    The ending is brilliant.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your wonderful comment. I to am left grasping for answers on why so many reach for hate without even knowing the subject of their hatred. I guess we just have to be whoever we are and try reaching for kindness while protecting each other from the other stuff. 😊


  2. And I know even less of being black, and being white is just being normal… lately I have found something akin in aging… not something you can help but all of the sudden perceived things are pasted on me… the problem is that barrier we place based on perception instead of primarily looking at the things we have in common….

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not sure what I’d do if I were considered “normal” by the average stranger. Erin is one the first white people to treat me like a normal person, loving me unconditionally, and I hurried up and married her.

      I often wonder how wonderful life would be if we just allowed ourselves and each other to be whoever we are. Many of us are missing the point of living by clinging to tribal nonsense, with the current established patriarchal order being the most complicit in compelling the so-called abnormal rungs to cling to their own semblences of normalcy.

      But I’m just some guy. What do I know? Thank you for your thoughtful comment and for listening to this old man yell at clouds.


  3. Such a compelling write, Barry! I love the free-flowing thought process as well as the words and reflections that emerge from this personal space. I found this bit particularly evocative: “It can be tricky, bemusing,/maddening, terrifying,/all these things at once”. 🙂


  4. I think you really hit upon the crux of the quandary that many of us POC deal with living in a country (world?) where we are evaluated by our skin tone yet told that isn’t the case, where we are made to feel we have to choose one side, one identity. I really felt the honesty and rawness in your words. Don’t edit it! You know a lot!

    Liked by 1 person

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