I Shed So Many Tears (An Essay Poem)

Sometimes I wonder if my social anxiety is a byproduct of racism
This internal need to recede from public life
But then again,
when did this become life?
I am tired
I am Expired
I am Broken
Into scattered pieces
Thieves come in the middle of the night and rob me of my peace
Their presence
Haunts me
Prevents me from sleeping
Anxiety and depression
Hold my hands
Spoons me
Holds me down
Reminds me that
Things do fall apart
Feels like I keep falling apart
Heartbroken
And
There are no reparations
for my devastation
No code switch
Respectability Politics
No Amazon Prime 2 Day deliveries
Can quell this pain
My gawd
This heavy load that I carry
My parents carried
My grandparents carried
My ancestors carried
My friends carry
My colleagues carry
This is more than I can bare
This Is more than I should have to bare
We are not all
Magical/Resilient/Strong

This morning I woke up crying
My pillows saturated with tears
I am grieving
These funerals with no bodies
Bodies riddled with rubber bullets
Spirits snatched and crushed by
Constables On Patrol
Slave Patrols
Night watches
This is nothing new
It’s always as it’s ever been
Yesterday
Today
Tomorrow
But it took 72 hours of footage
Of burning stores
Toppled statues of colonizers and white supremacists
And blood shed
And blood shed
And murder porn
for you to see the sin
To feel shook

I live/we live with this daily
No amount of changing geographies or degrees can erase these
experiences
Our kids are born with these experiences coursing through their veins
In vitro
This beautiful panopticon
Where we are
Policed
Watched
Stalked
Eyes follow me in stores
Can I help you?
Eyes follow me
On the streets
Are you lost?
Eyes follow me at work
Silent assumptions -Masks on
On social media platforms- Masks off

Lately I’ve been questioning if any of my white friends/colleagues/ so called allies care
Your silence is deafening
But we hear you
We see you
The truth is palpable
See this is more than a PC moment
There is no and can be no middle ground
In this situation
Do you see what I see?
Beyond the politics of your colorblindness
Beyond Your complicity
Beyond Your shame
This fleeting feeling that you didn’t earn what you got
Did you buy into the mythology that it was your bootstraps and the sweat of your ancestors that propelled you into greatness

Allowed you to move beyond your origins
To snatch that American Dream
Forgetting
Expunging your past
Forgetting
Your ethnicity
Forgetting
Your impoverished roots
Forgetting
The xenophobia that your great-granddaddy faced
They lynched y’all too
You were the problem

Forgetting
the signs that read: No Irish, No Dogs, No Blacks
Anti-Catholicism sentiments
They used to think that y’all were magical too
You forget yourself
Forgetting
They ran all of the Italians out of New Orleans in 1891
Calling them thugs and criminals
The usual suspects
Labeled as vermin and enemies of the state
Y’all used to be suspect
Now you hunt and terrorize the suspect

Did you know?
Did your mother and father not tell you as they read you stories of streets lined with gold
And told you that life would give you what it failed to give your ancestors
Whitely forgetful

Forgetting
Selective amnesia
Your assimilation into whiteness
Your assimilation into middle classness
Forgetting
Your assimilation into safety came at a cost

Our backs became your bridges
Our lives became fodder and entertainment
Reality before reality shows

How easily you forget
Your complicity
Your condemnation
Of a pain that you could never ever imagine
Even as you imagine that your inability to get a haircut or
buy flower seeds is painful
These two months felt like hell to you
This temporary lockdown must have felt painful

But perhaps not as painful as
Feeling like the most visible invisible person
in your neighborhood
In your office
In your discipline
In your friend group
In your classroom
In graduate school
In law school
In medical school
This is painful
Being racially profiled is painful
Getting shot by someone who is supposed to protect you is painful
Having to cut off your tongue without a knife is painful
And no masks can protect us
From this virus of racism

Yesterday I tried praying
Laid prostrate
Meditated
Watched Oprah’s Soul Sunday
Virtual church
Burnt Sage and Incense
Bathed in Florida Water and Pink Salts
Tried
Anything and everything that would
Remove the pain of this moment
But this pain
This stain remains inside me
On me

I walk in darkness
Never knowing what will
Come next
Here in this place
there is no light
Ofcourse my cell is prettier than the closet I used to live in
But this containment
The feeling of walls coming in on me
The feeling of glass ceilings
Closed in on all sides
Suffocates me
See
When we say, “I can’t breathe”
We are not only speaking metaphorically

Despite the degrees and connections
I grow weary
I am tired
I am expired

I am done.
© 2020. Aretina Rochelle Hamilton

Cultural Geographer, Pop Cultural Enthusiast, Curator of Socially Conscious Minds