After ten months of privileged, demanding, yet hardly ruinous self-isolation, time is losing its grip on my White Body.
One day is so much like another that I have ordered the clock pictured above and made a prominent space for it directly across from my seat at the diningroom table.
So engaging with Black History Month in this Groundhog Year has prompted me to reflect on a the hundreds of years that Black and Brown people have survived ownership and control of their bodies: bone-crunching, spirit-defying Groundhog Century after Century.
Paul Laurence Dunbar was the son of parents who had been enslaved in Kentucky before the Civil War and himself died of tuberculosis at age 33. In his poem Forever he wrote:
I had not known before
Forever was so long a word.
The slow stroke of the clock of time
I had not heard.
Maryland Poet Laureate (1979-1985) Lucille Clifton shared some Kentucky history with Dunbar: she wrote that one of her women forbears had been the first Black woman to be “legally hanged” for manslaughter in the state. She invites us to join her in won’t you celebrate with me:
won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.
Whether or not you live in a place where we can sniff spring around the corner, this month is a time to reflect on and celebrate the survival of Lucille Clifton, and every other Black and Brown body. Each a whole human being, gifted and limited.