At this café on 85th & Lexington, there’s a light-skinned woman
explaining microaggression to her companions, or trying to,
and I’m looking at her, politely, with my peripherals –
that nose on her face, to me, like the Great Sphinx’s lost
to history. Hips sitting as wide across the chair as a breakbeat
over eras of groove. Cornmeal complexion, a residual of grinding
the bodies of women into submission: all those black bones,
all those redbones – to the dust, to the dust, to the dust.
her hipster friends won’t recognize her as a portrait of violence,
but I do, damn deeply, and I sit on the lowest octave of all,
nibbling on an oatmeal cookie while the homie has his face in a book,
and I’m listening to their clique dub over Michael Jackson
and Queen records with their Friday afternoon recitation-
type questions, the kind that show they haven’t read,
got minimal interest in doing the hard work, their faces
quizzical, I’d say, only if I’m being nice, but she is
more merciful than me because she chose them, tries painting
murals around the course material, giving some color commentary:
like when someone compliments me for being articulate with surprise
acting a hint of lemon in their voice;
like when they touch my hair or ask to; like when someone asks me
if I work here and I don’t have a uniform on
like employees do; like when they assume my affinities from music
to men to menace to the point I want to be;
like when they ask me why I talk about race when I’ve been
black all my life. All. My. Life.
And they nod at her.
They just nod.
Photo by Stefano Corso