“If You Really Aren’t a Racist Take This Online Test” by Lisa Martin

Lisa Martin


It wears my heart out to talk like this.
In the city of the heart the bomb goes off
and everything else goes dark. It is always
the heart affected: the central chambers.
Paris is greater than or equal to Beirut.
True, or False? Solve for Y. This test has
been produced such that everyone fails.
Tweet your top 5 solutions to 5 friends.
If you break the chain someone dies.
I will no sooner surrender my paradoxes.
Than what. The answer is either “Love”
or “Systemic Racism” or something my
friend, refreshing the screen, keeps trying
to see before he falls asleep in videos of
human beings blown to smithereens.
I don’t know if he is looking for evidence
of brutish truth or proof of his own flesh
or resilience in the face of it. Meanwhile,
pigeons congregate on power lines cooing
peacefully and the cold is damper than it
used to be this time of year. You can feel it
in your bones, strangers have started saying
to other strangers in coffee shops making
contact, via the eyes, with terror. It’s homelike,
this cold. Above zero and coastal, with
smells of piss and spruce, the turned season
rotting in the air. You can’t fool me anymore
with your trick questions. I know the answer
is always “All of the Above.” Any kid with
an HB pencil and row upon row of circles
before her waiting to be filled in knows this
whether her mother or father or guardian
other has told her lovingly the night before
or not: All you can do now is get a good
night’s sleep, eat a healthy breakfast.

No matter how hard we try, we’re gonna
bomb this. I can feel it in my bones. I just keep
showing up anyway. I make eyes at strangers.
I sit at this window and watch rain become
snow and I make my marks on paper
anyway. I show my failed work and hope
it counts for something. None of the answers
are right. They never were. You have to pick
the response that seems the least wrong.

Poets Respond
November 24, 2015


Lisa Martin: “This poem is a response to the events of November 12th and 13th, 2015, in Beirut and Paris—as well as a response to subsequent social media conversations about these events. I’m interested in the ways we talk to one another about peace, about war, about justice. A lot of public discourse (on all sides) around these events lacks critical nuance and sounds to me like intolerant moralism. So this poem is, in part, a response to that as well.” (website)

Note: This poem has been published exclusively online as part of a project in which poets respond to current events. A poem written within the last week about events that occurred within the last week will appear every Sunday at Rattle.com—plus the occasional bonus poem during the week. Our only criterion for selection is the quality of the poem, not its editorial position; any opinions expressed are solely those of the poet and do not necessarily reflect those of Rattle’s editors. To read poems from past weeks, visit the Poets Respond page. Interact on our Facebook group. To have a poem considered for next week’s posting, submit it here before midnight Friday PST.

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