what hate really is you must feel it in your bones; hand-shaking anger that skips up collarbones; hate plays on your chest like a xylophone and lodges itself in your throat, crushes the song from your vocal chords.
Hate is a knee on your trachea.
Did hate feel that suffocating to you? That you had to choke the air out of another human? Did hate send you out the door, gun in hand, to bring home a dead body heavy on your shoulders?
Or was it fear?
Before you are acquainted with fear, you must return to childhood, when every shadow of a tree is a monster; before the tree was the monster, with the dead body of a black boy who ran away, left hanging as a symbol for all the world to see.
All the world saw and held their breath;
When George Floyd died in the span of seven minutes, on international news, I held my breath, too, and wondered what, or how, I would tell my daughter. My summer girl, who has already contemplated the meaning of her black skin, when a boy at seven years old told her “I don’t like you because you’re black.”
The magic left her.
You don’t know what loss really is, until you’re at a loss for words, and have to talk the magic back into your girl and remind her how much magic she truly has and tell her: black is not ugly.
Leah, your black is so beautiful.
An uprising ignites when my daughter asks about another black death on the news, and tells me, at age nine, “I don’t want to die because of the colour of my skin.” Hate is the lump in my throat that I swallow back, while anger curls in my fingertips and splits my knuckles from the inside out.
Hate was the knee on George Floyd’s trachea.
Hate was women at church looking at my daughter’s ultrasound picture and whispering about her “black lips” and “black nose.”
Hate is more names than I bear to list, more names than I could possibly list; Hate is a list of names that could be a poem on their own.
Hate stopped and frisked. Hate put a racist president in the White House. Hate pulled my daughter out of an airport line and searched through her hair.
Hate told my daughter she wasn’t beautiful, but Leah, your black is so so beautiful.
Before you know what hate really is, you need to stop, look in the mirror, and stare it in the face. And when you see it, put your hands up, Don’t. Shoot.
When you finally know the hate in you, eradicate it. Abolish it. Emancipate it. Carve it out of your bones, Dislodge it from your throat, keep screaming until there’s nothing left.
With all the hate I am acquainted with, I will keep screaming until there’s nothing left; and when there’s nothing else left, I will say again: Leah, your black is so beautiful.
Maxine L. Peseke is a writer, mother, and sometimes freelance editor; she also works closely with Swimming with Elephants Publications, LLC, as an organizational assistant. She is currently living in a small Northern Ontario town, transplanted from New Mexico respectively (and most recently) where she originally met each of Saturday’s Sirens as part of the Albuquerque poetry community.
Since the pandemic, she has rejoined the group for regular virtual meetings.
“Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. You must wake up with sorrow. You must speak to it till your voice catches the thread of all sorrows and you see the size of the cloth.” ~Naomi Shihab Nye
“And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love.” ~Lin-Manuel Miranda
for my daughter, Miranda
Before you know what love really is You have to strip yourself Of everything Every feeling Every article of clothing Every sound Taste Smell
Get rid of it all
Every material thing You ever felt You have to get rid Of what you thought love is/or was
You have to give birth (or hold a child or a butterfly or a miracle or faith or race your horse across an empty cornfield without bit or saddle)
Love is love unaware Of anything But everything Like bravery Like a caterpillar spreading her wings Knowing she doesn’t yet have wings You too, don’t need wings Because you already know how to fly As you grand jeté Landing softly but with firmness Only a mountain understands A thousand years later As the sun sets and kisses Earth goodnight
A mother rocks Nurses Coos Her golden, littlest love to sleep
Before you know what love is You have to empty your soul Like a yogi Empties breath All the way out until lung is flat And the heart muscle has to remember How to pump Because life is not without
It has to have hope Else we drown One By One Until it is just Adam and Eve, again Standing naked But this time they don’t see Because they’re blind And maybe this time
We’ll get it right
We’ll all fall into an abyss And swim, and swim
We’ll be familiar with the Darkness Because we never knew anything else Like we are back inside the Womb From which we all came A quiet blackness Of warmth Of love Safe Content Alone
Before you know what love is You have to empty your pockets all the way out
Maxine L. Peseke is a writer, mother, and sometimes freelance editor. She is currently living in a small Northern Ontario town, transplanted from New Mexico respectively (and most recently) where she originally met each of Saturday’s Sirens as part of the Albuquerque poetry community.
Do you need strength in this moment?
Have you forgotten to love self?
To feel loving kindness?
Are you wandering from room to room?
Or sitting numb on your couch?
Are you cleaning the kitchen, again?
The bathroom, again?
Scrubbing boredom away.
Empty hours stack up—minutes turn into days.
Time is endless.
The only excitement is groceries being delivered
and finally, they had in stock a beautiful, organic tomato.
A prayer of thanks.
In the garden, your seeds just begin.
You pull weeds so seeds have room to grow.
The sun shines today.
The dog carries his ball in his mouth,
his tongue out the side panting.
The birds sing,
a Cooper Hawk flies from tree to tree
It is the little things
that bring breath
and calm. Lilacs bloom.
You give some to your daughter
so she can place on her nightstand.
You make her blueberry banana muffins with crumble on top,
plain banana muffins for son.
After a shower and clean hair, the night settles.
Your prayers and wishes
for connection settle the soul.
It is not in others, but in self that prayers are answered
in the little things—
all tremendous blessings hidden in sweet
breaths. Inhale, exhale.
Big breaths in. Lots of love out—
sleep brings peace and tomorrow is a new day.
Being is inside and out of any person.
Therefore, inside ourselves we find both reflection and external expression.
It is one’s duty to consider both in equal esteem.
Can one be both internal and external and live within the empirical world?
The empirical world is created though both experience and consideration.
To be is to consider and experience.
Halfway to absolution
My body is a tether to this house
Which is a second skin
This city, the third- crawling as it is
I am heavy twice
Once for the hands that slide into my dreams
Once for the hands that stop short of my waking skin