Sometimes a poem is so visceral that it demands a response, and Fatimah Ashgar’s “To The White Men Who Fear Everything” is such a poem. Being from New Mexico, and having been immersed in other cultures from my earliest memories, I didn’t feel that the poem was about me. Rather, it made me reflect on what it was in my life experience that made me so deeply opposed to governmental interference in other countries, and how much I hurt for the myriad innocent victims, who still manage to dance.
Dance Floor for a White Boy
“You drone our cities
& murder our children
& we still find floor to dance.”
“To The White Men Who Fear Everything”
Oh how I loved to dance
when everything was as innocent as I was.
The brown neighbors who fed me sopa
as comfortable as grandmother's fresh bread
were simply neighbors & I danced in their yards
to music from somewhere else, somewhere else
beyond my simple life where imagination built
haciendas of golden adobe and clay & the music
never stopped for anything. Not even for funerals.
We danced everywhere but on the fresh graves.
There were so many shades of brown around me
dancing to the beat of native drums, native drums
that underscored the dialects and deities
so different from my own quiet worship.
Red sand, red clay, red rocks. Red water
that rushed from distant mountains in flash floods
painted my ideas of difference in the colors
of mythology, of life, of contradictions that
simply did not matter. We were all dancing &
when the drummer changed, so did our steps.
Not even the drums of war could stop me. I heard them
but refused that dance in favor of learning
new moves from new shades of brown. Music from provinces
and places whose names I still can't pronounce called me,
penetrated me like the piercing, haunting melodies
played on bone flutes by people so used to death
that it is the first and last thing spoken
in every morning prayer. The last thing grieved
every evening before bed. I learned to dance to
the rhythm of falling tears, missing mothers &
burning children. And still I dance. It is all I have
that bridges the gaping bomb craters created by a government
that fears and loathes everything it cannot control. Bridges
the distance between my heart, my mind, my sorrow, & yours.
I dance to say I'm sorry. Dance to soothe the helplessness
of every day's news of death and destruction. Dance to call out
to the myriad drummers whose ritual rhythms taught me to stop
thinking of differences and learn the steps that make us all
dancers on the same floor. Dancers on the floor of life,
dancing until we are drunk with peace and stripped of color.
© 2018 Jim Lewis
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