Remember, here you are a white man
—pearl bone tooth pillowcase linens cotton mouth morning—
but only here.
Know, across the water you are dark
—soil branch riverbed blackbird blood bruise mouth mourning—
you are otherness among others and among yours.
Remember, they won't see it here at first.
They’ll call you by your given name.
They’ll hold your hand and ask
to hear your history.
They’ll listen as generations
slip from your tongue
—soiled bones and teeth and linens and mouths—
a shower of stars made brighter
by galaxies gone dark. They’ll trust you
when you say your pockets are empty,
but I’ll have taught you to always carry stones,
to save them for graves
because you never know
when you’ll walk among the dead,
because you’ll know
But remember, here
you are a white man with the dead
under your skin your feet inside your mouth.
They crack your white bones
milk teeth raw gum line still sealing soft-spot.
They whisper, you were never one of us, and hold you
to their chest to sink you into ground.
But remember, little sun, you are more
than stone or pearl or star or mineral,
more than body or metaphor can make you
or color name you or land and water divide you
more than ma or man or mine.
You will know our stories in your bones
—branch black sea bruised and blooming—
when neighborhood boys threw stones at your mother
and words at her mother and then hands at hers,
when they threw fists at your grandfather and bullets at his
and finally shoved your great-great-grandfather so far
beneath the earth, no stone or throw could reach there,
you will know that none of us
were white men then
—black pearls unwished-for bones the dead sea rising still dead—
Remember, when half of your ancestors died, the other
half did the killing. Remember, murderer and murdered
are just one letter apart and your skin too is
translucent, kin on its underside, kin too
just one sibilance away. Remember how much
this matters everywhere, how skin hurts,
how no love is deep enough to forget
this and no skin thick enough to endure.