#106LinesOnBlacknessForWhitePoetsAndPolicemen

Both of my parents are blue-eyed

I worked as a housekeeper at 14

I never wanted blonde hair

My first accomplishment was controlling my rage

I learned to use chopsticks from the Hare Krishnas

I’m allergic to grass

I am 34% Italian, 14% Nigerian, 11% Beninian, 7% Scandinavian and I am black

I often wake from a deep sleep unable to breathe

I’ve always taken Ophelia personally

My first black boyfriend had perfect SAT scores

My first white boyfriend killed the girl he dated after me

My favorite kind of pie is blueberry pie

My second favorite pie is sweet potato pie

I learned to make sweet potato pie from Martha Stewart

I learned to make blueberry pie after tripping all night in the woods

The first person to call me nigger beat the hell out of me when I was 6

Until someone beat the hell out of me, I’d never heard the word nigger

After I heard the word nigger, I tried to push my little sister out of a window.

I love greens

I love tofu

I love cornbread

I never wanted blue eyes

I narrowly avoided being homecoming queen

I was the only black girl in my high school

My father loved me

My mother loved me

I am prone to panic attacks in theaters

Three years after Billy Joe failed to seduce me, I seduced him

I don’t regret using men for sex

In 10th grade I fell in love with Lord Byron’s clubfoot

I wanted to be Lisa Bonet, not Denise

There is a certain color of blue that I see as green

When I hear “Walk This Way,” I want to play pool

My first car was a Ford Maverick with no reverse

I never heard a song that used my name

A man from Bhutan renamed me “Apple”

I first had cancer at 15

I used to say cock but now I say dick

My first white girlfriend built her own bed

A man from Bhutan renamed me “Big Baby”

I decided to have only black boyfriends

I appreciate dreadlocks on white people

When I think of my grandmother, I think of funnel cakes

My mother put out New Year’s antipasto and polish sausage

A man from Bhutan renamed me “Buddha”

I stopped relaxing my hair in 1994

I don’t know a single song by LL Cool J

I am averse to the arctic tundra

I sometimes speak to Gertrude Stein

I moved to the desert so I could breathe

I don’t like honey or bees

I got my first tattoo at 37

I fell in love with Balzac’s lies and desperation

My first college boyfriend looked like a skinny Viking

I discovered the desert could not help me breathe

Sometimes, glass breaks, spontaneously, around me

At 5, I remembered a boy in a red shirt from my last life

At 6, I had a premonition that came true

My first college boyfriend looked like a red-haired Jesus

I taught my poodle to shut the door

I hate to take off my shoes in other people’s homes

I am not afraid of you

I love corn bread

I tasted corn bread first at 15

From the moment of my birth, I have struggled to breathe

I was named for a dutiful daughter

I have anxiety when someone gives me a gift

I obsess over the meanings of numbers

My first white husband hated my cooking

My first black husband couldn’t care less about my cooking

I worry about running out of time

I’ve had insomnia since I was 7

I often wake from a deep sleep unable to breathe

In my periphery, glass shatters inexplicably

I’ve never cheated on anyone

At 18, I hitchhiked to the wrong polls and missed the presidential election

I wish I had darker skin

Driving frightens me

I’ve never met a celebrity

I could take you in a fight

My white mother sang like Diana Ross

I’m a good shot

I tell my poodle he is my best friend when no one’s around

I always look behind me

If you listen, you can hear me struggle to breathe

I think Ezra Pound was a thief

I splurge on cut flowers

I braided my hair to be less ambiguous

My mother-in-law offered me money to leave

I am not fond of socks

If not Lauryn Hill, then Mary J.

In our mediation, my colleague said, it’s not about race, it’s about aesthetics

I have given up camping

I eat French fries with vinegar in the summer

My daughter is white and confused

I am still concerned about my soul

I often wake from a deep sleep unable to breathe

I like all things orange

I’m terrified the world will go on without me

I’ve had nightmares of being lynched

I’ve had nightmares of being crucified

I’ve had nightmares of the room spinning me out of a funnel

I don’t need you to love me

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Ruth Ellen Kocher is the author of Third Voice, the 2013 Noemi Book Prize selection; Ending in Planes, Goodbye Lyric: The Gigans and Lovely Gun; domina Un/blued, winner of the Dorset Prize and the 2014 PEN/Open Book Award; One Girl Babylon; When the Moon Knows You’re Wandering; and Desdemona’s Fire. She is a contributing editor at Poets & Writers Magazine, and teaches poetry, poetics, and literature at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

“#106LinesOnBlacknessForWhitePoetsAndPolicemen” originally appeared in FIGHT (TLR, Spring 2016)