Teachable Moments: November 19

The Deconstruction of Kate Rushin*

After Galway Kinnell, “The Deconstruction of Emily Dickinson”

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In my poetry class

surrounded by other teachers

and a Liberal White Lady instructor

I read “The Bridge Poem” in its entirety.

As I finish her last verse:

“I must be the bridge to nowhere

But my own true self.

And then

I will be useful. “

heads nod.

The overly enthusiastic white guy

who uses words like “synergy”

asks for the title.

Liberal White Lady says:

“I’ve known Kate for twenty years

and

she doesn’t come off as angry anymore.”

 

I do not say

if your work’s significance was denied by the white male literary establishment

and you were the sole black friend to 34 individual white people

and taxi drivers ignored you

and white women carelessly fingered your hair

and you realized that society was built on the bridge you call your back

you’d be angry too.

 

I seethe.

I wonder why the hell “good white people”

have not yet learned

that they will never have the right

to call black women angry.

My breath is smothered by the unbearable whitneness of the room

and my uncertainty grows that anyone

(other than this one down woman – shout out to you)

will really hear me.

 

I go for the subtle comment:

“Well, I know Kate too,

and though this poem was written in the eighties

it’s still relevant today”

when I really wanted to go for the angry comment:

“you’re shitting me, right?”

My anger is socially acceptable.

But it can also be dismissed as

emotional

oversensitive

social justice warrior.

 

Though Kate doesn’t need anything from me

especially my sympathy

I wish her two things:

better friends;

braver fans.

 

*I drafted this poem during our free-writing time in poetry class. I felt bad about it for a hot second: especially when Liberal White Lady asked me to share my writing with the class and I said it wasn’t ready yet.

But then, I had to tell Liberal White Lady that Latinos only have two last names, not three. Just like everyone else. I did not tell her our family story about my aunt who has six names because then LWL would continue to move about the world with the assumption that Latinos collect last names like party favors.

After this, all of my fucks floated out the door.

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