A sampling of poetry by Ginny Hoyle for the collaborative work “I stand before you a stranger in a land grown strange.”
Skin color is fake news. In fact, the whole idea of color is a con. You could say, technically speaking, it’s a nothing burger. And yet, down through the ages, gradations of human skin tone have been used to justify cruelty, stifle opportunity, launch wars and break the human spirit.
Velvet Black. Babytooth White.
The color we see and accept as real is a trick our eyes do with light to create an interpretation our biological hardware can use to make sense of whatever is actually out there around us.
Coffee with Skim Milk. Coffee with Cream. 80% Cacao.
For example. Black is understood as the absence of light. And yet a black object is said to have absorbed all incoming light. So black is made of light. White is understood as the absence of color because it scatters and reflects all visible values of light.
Black welcomes light and white turns it away.
Burnt Sienna. Dusk before Rain.
Color has no physical reality. It’s subjective. Humans have three different kinds of cone cells. If we had more, we’d have much more discriminating color vision. And there are colors we can’t see. If we could see them, we’d be at a loss for words. We might not have vocabulary to describe them.
Your dog has two kinds of cones in his eyes. If he had to fill out a form describing your race, she might not know what box to check. But it’s clear you hung the moon.
Garlic Naan . Desert Sand Under a Full Moon.
Sentient beings are born to sort. It’s how we distinguish predators from potential mates. But calling people black or white is a binary reductionist approach to sorting.
Nut Brown Ale. Fragrant Curry. Dogwood Petal. Frozen Tilapia.
Almost nothing is truly black. Or truly white—least of all human skin. These binary labels have been a
polarizing influence for too long. Beauty is only skin deep but ugly goes to the bone.
That’s an old saying attributed to Dorothy Parker and others long before her, including Anonymous, that old Wag.
I was in a living room serving coffee naked—
hunched over, hiding behind my bent arm
the best I could, oddly unconcerned
about the breeze on my ass.
Oh, well. No one noticed, which is really good.
Or else it’s sad. Everyone was hunched over phones,
sipping, reading, lost in thought.
It was like being dropped into a party where you know
you don’t belong and you can’t find your ride
and you can’t
find the door and frankly,
for finding a towel.
the sky is falling
More and more, I feel stripped
of all the illusions that kept me dry as toast.
Don’t you? Cozy knits, spun from hope
both false and true.
One size fits most.
More and more,
it’s 4:00 am. I lie awake, trying
not to think.
Mama said there’d be nights like this but
she never said what to take, where to hide,
what to hum as the shells burst
and how to count, how to save
all the broken
children of the world.
The noise from the stars
I Was 16
I remember how you looked in your clean white strait jacket:
a 90-pound finch, wings pinned useless at your sides.
House of rivers, house of reeds, summer mornings voiced by redwings.
How we hid the scissors, hid the knives, lied
under doctor’s orders to fool your fiery mind.
House of suffocating summer heat. House of sorrowful tides.
I remember the sunny day they came for you, a trance of alibis,
capture construed as rescue.
Great Blue Heron stock still in the water, yes
to save you,
we betrayed you.
Eyes of the hunter, hunter eyes trained on murky depths; life beneath the surface furtive, miraculous
how we survived, like sticks hurled the way you taught us into the flood-gorged stream, sinking under the stone bridge, popping up on the other side.
A glimmer world of ebb and flow;
I still see your face as they forced you into the ambulance alone,
things no more, no less than they are:
and the terror in your eyes. How we hid behind dark trees watching, steeped in our own blank fear. And a long year in a beige house beside a tidal inlet, no outlet for our pain,
just the mystery of other creatures—breathing,
feeding, somehow singing…
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