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 © Jeannette Ehlers

LOOKING at / with / for / after ONE ANOTHER
Resonanz A.L. Kennedy

Look at me how - a poem by A.L. Kennedy

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Look at me how I am white
How my skin is the white of human bone
As white as the heat on Shark Island
As white as the paper beneath lists.
It’s just my skin, what I was born with – I never knew it was a fearful thing.

Look at me how I am Celt white
Scot white
How the shape of my flag haunts Jamaica because of chains
Rises over The South wherever it yearns for screaming
How the fire cross that gathered us summons the noose
The clan stumbles into blood nights, one letter metastasising.
Look at the colour of people who were cleared and then clearing
Underfoot and then treading down.
The piob mhor sang over stolen earth as an empire’s cry for more
The turn of the sun always seeing our sin.
We were the victimising victims.
Look how the blood washed from the cotton and tobacco
But never the debt.
It’s just my skin, what I was born with – I never knew it was a nightmare thing.

Look at me how I walk soft and uplifted
Walk past the Aryan Jesus pictures
And the statues to trafficker thugs
Walk past the Benin bronzes
Past the catalogue of looted joys.
Turn the guineas in my pocket
And they let out the sound of manacles and weeping
They say the name of a brutalised country
The name that measures value in the heart of whiteness.
It’s just my skin, what I was born with – I never knew it blessed obscene inheritance.

Look at me how I travel unopposed.
I can fly clean over the lash of the Black Line
I can drive from Charleston to Talequah
And never feel the Trail of Tears.
I never notice the abysses.
I do not die in desperate boats
I do not die on concrete floors
I do not die hung by my thumbs
I do not die in cages.
I do not drown myself
Or swallow poison
As the only freedoms left.
I have never been stopped and searched
Just for driving
Just for walking
Just for standing
Just for looking.
No one has ever hunted me for sport.
It’s just my skin, what I was born with – I never knew it was a passport.

Look at me how I am complete.
I am not liable to amputation
As punishment
As proof of domination
As entertainment.
I will not be crippled
Or violated
To make amends for my natural form.
I have not seen my mother’s head held as a trophy.
I have not seen my children’s body parts
Cut and piled like fruit in baskets.
I do not know my forebears flesh
Was given out
As souvenirs
As favours.
No photographs exist of my beloved being tortured
Hanging
Burning
With a festive crowd beneath.
No one has questioned my soul’s complexity
Or extent.
It’s just my skin, what I was born with – I never knew it was my safety.

Look at me how I sing and caper
Love and worship
Pray to powers
Speak words of my heart and life
And do so with no hobble chains
No muzzle
No curse
No resistance
No promise of monsters
That walk proud in daylight
Or monsters that wake up in shadows
And take me with no warning.
It’s just my skin, what I was born with – I never knew it made my joys less cautious.

Look at me how my hands
Have never held a bullwhip
A cow skin
A brand
A knife
A gun
A leash for dogs that hunt down freedom.
My hands have never dragged sons from their mothers
Never pointed a false accusation in hopes of fatalities
Have never counted money
Slave sweat money
Slave blood money
Slave trade money.
I have never pulled a rope
And lifted up a child of god
Never made that flag of blasphemy
And a lost country beneath.
It’s just my skin, what I was born with – I never knew it had a history.

But look at me how
My mind is made for knowing
And has no excuse
And knowing is change
And change is reality’s true nature
And reality is unsurvivable without truth
Unsustainable without love.

Look at me, how I am white like a Klan hood
I take my whiteness back from that.
Look at me how I am white like the angry men with spittle lips
The ones who despise the future
I take my whiteness back from them.

Look at me how I am white like an existential threat
Like the knee on the neck
I take my whiteness back from that.

Look at me how I am white like the faces that watch
And do nothing while entitlement chokes out a life
I take my whiteness back from that.

Look at me how I am white like the Memsahibs and Karens
The torturers and freaks
And the broken souled monsters
I take my whiteness back from that.

Look at me how I am white like the gatekeepers of peace and bounty
I take my whiteness back from that.

Open the gates.

And look at me how I am writing and
I am not graceful
I am not remarkable
I am not offering magnificent sacrifice.
I am simply consenting to know facts
I am fulfilling a minimum human requirement
Which is that I notice reality
History
Human pain.
Only the lost and the broken refuse to save others from pain.
Only the unloved and empty yearn for damages they can incur
Seek justification.
I am not good, I am only normal.
I cannot mend everything, not by myself
But I can mend something.
I am supposed to.
That is a human obligation.
That is the working of necessary love.

And why look at me and my whiteness?
The pain to be ended is elsewhere.
There is help to be given elsewhere.
There is work to be done.
There are actions to perform expressly
As if we live in the world where
No skin is a colour of anything other than love.

Also published by The Common Breath

A.L.Kennedy

  © Robin Niedojadlo A.L.Kennedy wurde in Dundee geboren. Sie lebte fast 30 Jahre lang in Glasgow und hält sich jetzt in North Essex auf. Sie hat eine Vielzahl britischer und internationaler Buchpreise gewonnen, darunter einen Lannan-Preis, den Costa-Preis, den Heinrich-Heine-Preis, den Somerset-Maugham-Preis und den John-Llewellyn-Rees-Preis. Zweimal wurde sie in die Liste der Granta Best of Young British Novelists aufgenommen. Sie hat 9 Romane, 6 Kurzgeschichtensammlungen, 3 Sachbücher und 3 Kinderbücher geschrieben. Sie ist Fellow der Royal Society of Arts, Fellow der Royal Society of Literature und Mitglied der Akademie der Kunst. Sie schreibt auch für Bühne, Kino und Fernsehen und hat ein umfangreiches Werk für den Rundfunk geschaffen, darunter Dokumentarfilme, Monologe, Dramen und Essays. Gelegentlich tritt sie auch als Stand-Up-Comedian auf.

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