Daily Archives: August 23, 2018

Adjacent

I’ve got a friend 
who weeps when called out
for racist words and actions.

Who sobs out loud
when tapped on the shoulder
with a simple, “excuse me, but…”

Who appeals to the masses
for absolution from
wee slips of the tongue and 
itty-bitty sins of omission or,
sometimes,
commission. 

I feel so bad for them
I’ve created
an easier term to use.

I say,
“You’re not being racist…
friend…
it’s more like…
you are…

racism-adjacent.” 

As in, of course
you’re not,
but you share a fence
with it.

As in, of course
you’re not,
but your apartments 
share common spaces
where racism
plays Kid Rock so loud
you can’t hear
that nice Justin Timberlake.

As in, of course 
you’re not, 
but you work
a community garden together;
racism grows weed, you grow
cannabis.

As in, of course,
racism doesn’t know any better.

As in, of course,
you certainly know better.

You’re not racist,
just racism-adjacent.
Sit near it at work.
Talk to it at lunch.
Engage it in debate
online, listen to it
respectfully, indignantly
at PTA meetings,
tut-tut it in private,
slip into silence
when it’s next to you
in the elevator, 
the supermarket,
the voting booths.

Of course, you
are not like that.
Of course you would never

although you sympathize
with how hard
it must be sometimes to miss
falling into that
what with all the 
provocations
and you know better
but the economy pushes
people and 
you would never sacrifice
anyone’s right to speak —

Enough. Friend, listen:
I’m so sorry I called you
racist. It must have been
the lighting, the darkness,
the nearness of
the real racist
in the room — sorry, 

I meant to say
“racist-adjacent”
of course but somehow
I forgot. Sin of 
omission on my part —

I forgot the word
I’m supposed to use.


Routine

Five days a week most weeks,
I hear a radio

playing out front
around seven AM.

Last notes of a current hit drain
away; another one starts.

A car horn insists from the curb
that someone is late

meeting someone. Hard footsteps
down the back stairs from

the third floor. A soft exchange of
Spanish. A van door

slides open, closes 
quickly with a deep 

chunk. The motor pitch
rises, the tires hiss, and then

all of it fades away
till tomorrow, same time.

It is torture on some days,
comfort on others, depending

on how the day before felt,
how my bed treated me last night,

what I expect from the rest
of this day and the day to follow.

On any day I do not hear it,
I awake as if I had. That is

torture some on days,
comfort on others.

Now and then I only hear
the radio and then fall asleep

again, or wake to the van
pulling away. I wonder then

if I have missed
a variation

that might have
changed my life,

then
I stop wondering

and my life
goes on unchanged.