lördag 22 augusti 2015

Kissing the color line goodbye

  Lördagens poet har ägnat stor del av sitt författarskap åt sina afro-amerikanska rötter och de civilrättsliga frågorna i det amerikanska samhället. Boken "Fast animal" (2012) var en av finalisterna till National Book Award det året. För ovanlighetens skull publicerar jag bara en dikt, men den utgör ett bra exempel på Tim Seibles sätt att skriva.

  Tim Seibles är född (1955) och uppvuxen i Philadelphia. Han tog en BA vid Southern Methodist University och en MFA vid Vermont College of Norwich University.
  I sina dikter tar han upp teman som rasmotsättningar, klasskonflikter och intimitet. Han använder olika ingångar till ämnet och skriver med en frispråkighet och ett innovativt språkbruk.

  Dikten om förälskelsen i Allison Wolff är talande för relationerna mellan vita och afroamerikaner i 70-talets USA.

Allison Wolff, by Tim Seibles
(from Fast animal. Etruscan Press, 2012.)

Like a river at night, her hair -
the sky starless, streetlights
glossing the full dark of it:
Was she Jewish? I was seventeen,

an "Afro-American" senior
transferred to a suburban school
that held just a few of us.
And she had light-brown eyes

and tight tube tops     and skin
white enough to read by
in a dim room. It was impossible
not to be curious.

Me and my boy, Terry, talked about
"pink babies" sometimes: we watched
I Dream of Jeannie and could see Barbara
Eden - in her skimpy finery - lounging

on our very own lonely sofas.
We wondered what white girls were
really like, as if they'd been raised
by the freckled light of the moon.

I can't remember Allison's voice
but the loud tap of her strapless heels
clacking down the halls is still clear.
Autumn, 1972: Race was the elephant

sitting on everybody. Even
as a teenager, I took the weight
as part of the weather, a sort of heavy
humidity felt inside and in the streets.

One day, once upon a time, she laughed
with me in the cafeteria - something
about the Tater Tots, I guess,
or the electric-blue Jell-O. Usually,

it was just some of us displaced brothers
talkin' noise, actin' crazy, so she
caught all of us way off-guard. Then,
after school, I waved    and she smiled

and the sun was out - that 3 o'clock,
after-school sun rubbing the sidewalk
with the shadows of trees -

and while the wind pitched the last
of September, we started talking
and the dry leaves shook and sizzled.

In so many ways, I was still a child,
though I wore my seventeen years
like a matador's cape.

The monsters that murdered
Emmett Till - were they everywhere?
I didn't know. I didn't know enough
to worry enough about the story
white people kept trying to tell.

And, given the thing that America is,
maybe sometimes such stupidity works
for the good. Occasionally,

History offers a reprieve, everything
leading up to a particular moment
suddenly declared a mistrial:
so I'm a black boy suddenly

walking the Jenkintown streets
with a white girl - so ridiculously
conspicuous    we must've been
invisible. I remember her mother

not being home and cold Coca Cola
in plastic cups and the delicious
length of Allison's tongue     and
we knew, without saying anything,
we were kissing the color line

goodbye     and on and on for an hour
we kissed, hardly breathing, the light almost
blinding whenever we unclosed our eyes -
as if we had discovered the dreaming door
to a different country     and were walking

out     as if we could actually
walk the glare we'd been
born into: as if my hand
on her knee, her hand
on my hand, my hand
in her hair, her mouth
on my mouth     opened
and opened and opened

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