Lately I’ve been feeling like this man who kept asking me for water
when I served drinks at a bar. Each time, he whispered “I’m sorry”
as if he had discovered something terrible about my past.
I might’ve looked tired. I didn’t want to serve anyone, I didn’t want anything
anymore, besides someone of my own to apologize to for demanding more
than I deserve. I’d turn into a white flower and cut myself with a knife
and put myself in a vase on the dinner table just to be stared at, just to exist.
After a while, I would stop existing, having been seen so much.
You see, most of the things we see, we see without realizing
that they’re there, without remembering having seen them, and this terrifies me,
all these memories swimming around in my subconscious like minnows, waiting
to be picked up by a team of psychologists who have discovered the exact number
of milliseconds it takes to get people to do anything without realizing
why they did it, like donate to charity or recognize weapons. You show
a white person a black person’s face and instantly they can tell the difference
between a gun and a hand tool, but they will never know that face.
Perhaps most of what I’ve learned to fear, I’ve learned
without ever seeing what I feared, and on it goes, every day,
like the chorus to a song that won’t stop repeating itself, like saying I’m sorry,
I’m sorry, until my mouth is empty, my body a dry lake.
—from Poets Respond
July 26, 2020
Shira Moolten: “Several events in the past week have made me think about the evolution of the ‘Karen’ meme, a meme which has evolved from referring simply to entitled white women to racist white women, women who call the police on black men. As a white woman, I’m trying to grapple with my own inner ‘Karen,’ and this poem is a response to that.”