March 9, 2016

Jennifer Givhan

THE GLANCE

Through window through curtains wide through
singing after shower through racial lines and statutory
laws through landscape pebbles off the complex
path through morning’s rituals before the sun could rise
through glass pane while I dreamt in our bed while our plump
brown baby slept in his slatted crib through slanted white
light through window on your way to work you heard
a song you heard a sweet song and turned your head toward
the naked girl. When the police knocked on our door.
When the police came to our door. Let me rephrase
that. When the police. They claimed you climbed
on a rock. They claimed it was a shower, the white
girl’s white mother. They claimed the window
was the shower’s and the window eight feet high.
They claimed you carried ladders or were made of stilts
or could form pebbles into whole rocks for climbing.
They made signs they posted on our door.
They made signs for better watch our backs.
They made signs for night watch for on guard
for dark man with Afro. After we’d moved away
after we’d hired a lawyer and the case was dropped
for lack of evidence after there was no rock
after we’d claimed the jagged edges of any safe space
we could, in Koreatown, where I daily pushed
our baby’s stroller through the apartment’s garden
with koi ponds past doorways that smelled of boiled
fish and our baby learned to name the things he saw
nice tree the oak with gall, the spindle wasp gall that leaves
had formed like scar tissue around the wound
where insect larva were eating their way through
the window of a neighbor’s home I looked up
and watched a round man from the shower, letting
towel slip I couldn’t look away from this strange
intoxicating body in front of me. We know
nothing happened after that. I took our boy
home. I cooked us all dinner. We shut the blinds.

from Rattle #50, Winter 2015
Rattle Poetry Prize Finalist

[download audio]

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Jennifer Givhan: “In the early summer on a balcony in Squaw Valley, I watched the morning light across the pines in the distance and thought about the lives lost this year to ingrained racist norms and the shattering of homes when the police come bearing the news to the families. ‘The Glance’ is based on a very real trauma inside my own biracial home—and only this year have I been able to put the pieces together enough that I could write about my experience. The truth is that my family shut the blinds, and, for a long while, I shut my heart in self-defense. But it has torn open. This poem is a tearing open.” (website)