Irène P. Mathieu – Poetry

look I –
I come from no poverty
no rough wrinkles
no unwanted soil stains in fingerprint cracks
no malnutrition.
my childhood was light and bound
by jump ropes and garden hoses.
yes I –
I have always had this black
rising off my back, but
I was taught that darkness is depth.
no I –
I was never fatherless or
motherless; I’ve heard a gunshot
only in the distance, and
I cannot claim to have my name
etched on the doorframe of a
subsidized apartment.
I was suburban, with
rabbits in the driveway
and raspberry bushes, but
yes I –
I do remember times at school
when phrases nipped my skin
like mosquitoes, as if my back
could explain the look of my hair,
the lilt of my talk.
look I –
I come from no food stamps,
no alcohol, no lonely nights,
no jail cell survival.
I come from college degrees,
piano lessons, and skinned knees.
but I –
I come from history, too:
from a man who died at the hands
of a bitter white son, and when the
tribal elders came to take his own,
to raise him in their ways, his
mixed mother clung.
from a woman who used a bathroom
in Louisiana once, in 1950,
laughed at the thought of lynching,
said she was from DC, and would not
be kept from a proper ladies’ room,
scared my grandpa half to death
as they drove nonstop across
the Mason Dixon line.
from a man who fought the Nazis
and Mussolini, even though Italians
treated him closer to a human being
than his fellow men in green.
look I –
I cannot tell you that I am like
the people you might have
seen on the news.
there were no cockroaches
no violent crime
no crackheads in my infancy,
but I –
I come from history.
everything that is deep
comes with stories.