WHAT IS WHITENESS
(AN IMPERFECT BRAINSTORM)
By Bill Shultz
November 9 2016
Woke to the sound of a woman’s cry,
buried my head under the blanket
and cried a little, too—historical tears.
Silence soaked up sadness—sopping sponge.
Alone, I pulled my knees to my chest
desperate for someone to hold.
Crash of thrown stones
doing their hateful work
on our fragile homes.
Walls pull themselves apart.
Nakedly exposed—solitary lover
with no more shelter here—
neither flight nor fight an option.
Hold with courageous vulnerability
the warrior’s stance and spiral chant:
Peace. Harmony. Love.
Peace. Harmony Love.
Peace. Harmony. Love.
The call rises above the discord,
returns with the pervasive grace of rain.
What is Whiteness? (An Imperfect Brainstorm)
When it comes to race the past is always present.
-Michael Eric Dyson
A tint. Absence
of pigment. Bleached
fiber. Flower petals.
who don’t understand
why people of color
are tired and angry,
don’t get #BlackLivesMatter.
(Do I, white boy I am,
fully understand, the way
I would like to think?)
Having an Uncle
who nigger-rigs shit
cracks nigger toes
Traveling the country
knowing it’ll be alright.
White people say
We gon’ be alright.
Whiteness is straining
to hear the difference.
Not acknowledging difference
as a strategy toward equality.
This hits liberal whiteness
as regression, this looking
at whiteness. Shameful
in society scared of shame.
Skipping this step won’t work.
is why it is not #AllLivesMatter.
It’s alright. We gon’ be alright.
Looking at white. Looking at black.
the window you thought open
doesn’t work the same way
it does in dreams
The memory of something good
has nothing to do with the rain
Though the rain may have
something to do with remembering—
once wide open
Memories are so many dead sparrows.
Reading Burton Watson’s Translation of Grasses Bury the River Bank
Lately I’ve developed a taste for the quiet life.
I think how we could lie and talk together
through the night. – Su Tung-p’o
Dusk—my lamp is lit.
Incense smoke flows over Buddha
across image of Wolf into web
of dream catcher before settling—
Be Here Now and Essential Dōgen
yoga mat meditation cushion—
we knit our religions from scraps
of three thousand years.
In this space I’ve developed a taste
for the quiet life.
I think how we could grow a garden,
forest even, spend mornings there
tending to thoughts, listening to Earth.
Then come together, wash away dirt,
glistening with touch.
Picking at Threads
In my mother’s home
trying to find my mother.
She is somewhere inside
the crashing of pots and pans
and whatever other goddamn
fucking things torment her.
Somewhere woven into the fabric
of the talk of town is the thread
of my mother’s story, her dreams
and demons, desires and release.
I sit and watch her pacing,
the twisting of her jaw,
twitching hand, trying like hell
to find my mother.
About the Author:
Bill Shultz is a poet, painter, farmer and frequent traveler currently based at Green Gulch Farm Zen Center. He received his BA Creative Writing from Missouri State University and MA Studio Art and Theory from Summer Institute of Visual Art at Drury University.