Letter to My Son, November 8th 2016

by Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach
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 
they're everywhere. 
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.

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