for Arthur De Gobineau
This moment in history is my chance
to have my say.
It is brilliant to hate blacks,
When I write about the cultural
habits of the latter, I sometimes wonder
how it would feel
to touch their glossy black hair like
corn silk without kink or curl.
Under my fingertips this secret joy
to know what I could have been.
No drop of blood to carry weight
in my hair and features, undetected
like the threat
my cousin whispered
when I was still a boy and quick to anger.
Imagine, he said, if your maman was black,
the words like a curse whispered
into my ear, a taunt that made me wonder
about the origins of man.
A French woman, my mother
so delicately boned
she could never harbor
the taint of the enemy
whose story I tell
because it is my right,
not a clever ploy
to hide my own racial doubt.
*Arthur De Gobineau was a nineteenthcentury race theorist whose racist perspectives have influenced generations.
Artress Bethany White is a poet. She earned a B.A. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, an M.A. in Creative Writing from New York University, and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Kentucky. Her poetry has appeared in Harvard Review, Appalachian Journal, Black Renaissance Noire, and MELUS as well as other anthologies and literary journals.