sound and fury
The gloom is
the off-white of white. Because white can’t know
what white knows. Where’s the life in that?
Where’s the right in that? Where’s the white in that?
At the bone of bone white breathes the fear of being,
the frustration of seeming unequal to white.
White portraits on white walls signal ownership of all,
even as white walls white in.
And this is understandable, yes,
understandable because the culture claims white
is owed everything—a wealth of inheritance
a system insures. In each generation
the equation holds—and better than
before and indifferent to now and enough
and always and inevitably white.
This is what it means to wear a color and believe
its touch an embrace. Even without luck
or chance of birth the scaffolding has rungs
and legacy and the myth of meritocracy fixed in white.
That’s how white holds itself together
as the days hold so many white would not—
White is living within brick-and-mortar, walling off
all others’ loss, exhaustion, aggrieved
exposure, dispossessed despair—
in daylight white hardens its features.
Eyes, which hold all light, harden.
Jaws, closing down on justice,
harden into a fury that will not call
white to account even as for some
its pledge is cut out from under.
If people could just come clean about their lives,
even as poverty exists inside white walls,
and just being white is what’s working.
Who implies white could disown its own
even as white won’t strike its own structure.
Even as white won’t oust its own system.
All redress fuels nothing the second another
can be thrown out.
In daylight white’s right to righteous rage
doubles down on the supremacy
of white in our way.
From Just Us: An American Conversation (Graywolf Press, 2020) by Claudia Rankine. Used with the permission of the poet.