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Arisa White

Arisa White, winner of the 2012 San Francisco Book Festival Award in Poetry is a Cave Canem fellow and holds a MFA from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She’s the author of the chapbook Disposition for Shininess. She has received residencies, fellowships, and/or scholarships from Squaw Valley Community of Writers, Hedgebrook, Atlantic Center for the Arts, University of Western Michigan, Fine Arts Work Center, and Bread Loaf Writers’s Conference. She currently lives in Oakland, CA.

Does the monitor turn static after the man recedes into concrete, does it loop, does his batty keep sway, forever on?

To Deprive Ourselves

 
 
 

Does the monitor turn static


Does the monitor turn static


 

Does the monitor turn static after the man recedes into concrete, does it loop, does his batty keep sway, forever on?


She invited this ghost in.

She wanted me and refused the conditions that surrounded the want. Singular and intentional her focus, I was all she needed. And when you become a need, there is constant hunger. 

In her dreams, I’m the cheater. She beats the temptress to the ground. 
This would be her, if we cast this dream real-time. 

Anger wakes her and sheets can’t build a great wall. 

This is the ghost we share.

Grief is a ghost I make of myself.

I killed her. The old she I was, the she I sometimes wish I could be, she who didn’t know better, didn’t voice and protest, she don’t hold she self in the confidence I held all others. 

I took any signs I was coming back. One day I say, I’m forever with one, then the next, I’m forever with another. Sly about it and then direct and it all too quick-quick for my heart, it swells with sadness. Shifts me into a shape, I excused myself from public. 

Haunted my house. Aggrieved that when you put the pieces back together, scars look crueler than the original stitch. I wanted love as fierce as I raged.

Imagine a mammoth coming alive in my human shell. There was a break as glorious as birth and no skin could take the violence. Not she, not I, not her, and they were clueless.

Love is a truer I. Beyond stereos to a guard coming down to a vulnerable creature witnessed beyond my know. We are the fish bladder of two circles meeting. No more with my shade, come into my sunshine.  

How do you surrender?

 
 
 

To Deprive Ourselves


To Deprive Ourselves


To deprive ourselves, we learn


slow acts of spiritual starvation 
to endure the privilege of being savage. 

It’s the type of deprivation that makes it permissible to rape, to war, this race,
to put two bullets in the back of a head. All those hoods with people in them,
these ghosts, we live with still. 

You rolling stone, 
your accumulation and destruction—
Gerald, this game needs an even field. 

We make ourselves without 
connection and it becomes easier
to remain under spells of objectification—

                                                                                                             I’m reading Essence in an effort to distract myself from being terminated. Terminated because my position is eliminated and therefore I must go. Over thirty years and not even a severance package, and then the bullshit babble to excuse. This is the magic of becoming an object and then an object that loses her utility. Doesn’t fit the schema, has disobeyed the trope, has stepped out of place. We can’t imagine her humanity, so fade to The End—

This makes me gorilla my chest. 
It’s time to subject. 


***.

There is the take:
no one takes responsibility
for wounds given in return. 

Sometimes the wolves
can raise the child
and the child will
grow fur to cope
in the world
and her hide
will be prized. 

I don’t want to believe I’m being prepared for extinction—encountered as a strange occurrence (What are you?), a discovery to their cells (Where are you from?), seen and invisible and talked to (She’s so articulate). Met with entitlement and aggression (You know what I can do with those long legs?). It’s reinforced over and over that no one will come for me (Oh, we didn’t see you). Why? We’ve been taught that you’re nobody. 

Unlearn this. 

I know this more than any body
I’ve known. I have an extra rib,
and from that extra rib, I can 
write any body known. 

***.

Anger and strength the many impose, so the work they do is lessened, 
so the expectation is a myth, a cross, and make us bear it, 


We’ve outsourced the journey of doing inner work,
leave hallmarks to say our apologies, 


We put our money where our mouths are,
and all those white men sound biting,


Everyone wants to be the hottest
stud on the auction block,


Show your caliber,
your color, 
your guns,
your power, 

Show how best
you use
your skills 
and keep 
the machine
going—caught up pleasing our Fathers, even if you can’t recall, never seen, the man’s face. 


***.

You’re not a threat to me,
She’s not a threat to she
not he, not him,
not they, not ze, not we

No threat to we

We believe oppositely
as if it will protect us—
cosign a cube in a Rubik,
match colors to win

The game, without stickers, 
is something else to play

If I am to solve this, 
it requires more than yellows
with yellows, reds and reds,
the blues with the blues. 


***.

Who am I not to be?
Who am I to be?
To be who?
I be?
Who to be?
An owl with who to see. 

Questions of people seeking to be seen. This is the beauty of our justice, a woman. Blindfolded, holding scales in her hand and from some unseen place she judges you, 
lets you know how much you’ve offended her court. 

Remember,
she too is in service
and not to you. 

You’re purged of revolt,
and suited for want and fear.

Who are we not to be.

The die has chance
and limitations
and soon 
that pattern
is a parent. 

Each generation is a new forgetting.

We chase
our tail
on a new patch
of sunlight,
put our feet
square on
someone’s
land,
back,
and body

Bullets
bombs
bang, bang—bitches!

Who are we not to be. 

Ourselves defined by all these nots

Have nots
what nots
be nots

Not there
not here
our nouns 
are “no” and “not.”

Our knotted 
bodies, bound

Who are we not to be. 


***.

There are some things I know I am not meant to know about your life, because I may write them. We fear what people’s natures are, like we do not have an equally awesome nature. When the leaf sliced my eyelid, it was her way of saying, You blinked right on time. 


***.

Want.

We’re so filled with want. 

Blood is thicker
than water
and then there’s thirst. 

Let me drown you 
                                                     and we’ll understand where you began:

You didn’t come for me
You didn’t come for me
You didn’t come for me
You didn’t come for me
You didn’t come for me
You didn’t come for me
You didn’t come for me
You didn’t come for me
You didn’t come for me
You didn’t come for me
You didn’t come for me
You didn’t come for me
You didn’t come for me
You didn’t come for me
You didn’t come for me
You didn’t come for me
You didn’t come for me
You didn’t come for me
You didn’t come for me
You didn’t come for me
You didn’t come for me
You didn’t come for me
You didn’t come for me
You didn’t come for me
You didn’t come for me
You didn’t come for me
You didn’t come for me
You didn’t come for me
You didn’t come for me
You didn’t come for me
You didn’t come for me
You didn’t come for me
You didn’t come for me

 

 

 

Love,
Me