BLACK IS NOT A COLOR
The bossy kid with the runny nose
two seats in front of me in the
third grade was the first to break the news.
It can’t be your favorite color. That doesn’t make sense.
You have to pick something else.
I picked it anyway, taking my marker with childish rebellion and
shading my paper darker than dark.
If it’s not a color, why is it part of the box? I asked,
but he was already complaining to the teacher about me.
At twelve, I began to notice I could not hear myself in
the shapes of the words people used
to describe me, could not
recognize myself in family pictures;
my childhood wish to master the superpower of invisibility
was granted, in the cruel way faery princes trick human
For years, I searched for myself in the spaces between the
words I read, curled up in an unlit room.
I grew to cover myself in black, erasing the deceitful curves and
uneasy lines of my adult body.
I will never forget the cave in Ireland where the tour guide
told us it was very important to keep the lights on, because
true black made people insane. For a second, he let the lights go
to exemplify this, and my eyes lost purchase, the world spun.
I was afraid
but I was also free, my mismatched parts absorbing back
into the dark: head of a woman, heart of a man,
soul of neither.
The curve of someone’s body has never made me stir,
even when my neighbors’ gardens were shot through with
little red buds of desire, for touching and sucking that made
my stomach turn.
I thought they were lying when they told me I had
no matter how my fingers groped I could not find
My heart has never sped at the thought of another person;
I have never craved the presence of another body beside me
They say this means I must be lonely,
that I just don’t know what love is.
But sometimes when I stay up past dark on the roof with
sometimes when I walk alone on the street and watch the lights
go out one by one,
when the rich dark slant of a chord of faraway music hits
too close to the bone and fills me to the brim,
I know that they are wrong.
in June, I travel freshly tarred streets the same inky hue as my boots,
walking through rainbow banners, the smell of air after rain,
the sounds of celebration buzzing through me, filling me with
something like kinship, like
If the people dotting the streets in one another’s arms can be accepted
for who they are, maybe someday I can be forgiven for who
I am not.
—from Rattle #78, Winter 2022
Raistlin Allen: “Poetry to me is pure magic; it is the closest thing to a religion that I have. It shows me the outlines of something, and if I can chase it fast enough, I can capture this ethereal thing in form, staple it down in words. It allows me to say the unsayable, to become the magician. To examine my own wounds and to attempt to heal them; to brush up against souls miles away and feel the reverberance.” (web)