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C.N.P Poetry 

  • Writer's pictureCathexis Northwest Press

“on Loving v VA: notes from a white guy married to a black woman”

By: Matthew Daley

you took African American studies

but don’t have to recount quotes from

the texts on the syllabus and if she is

unfamiliar with some of the facts and

figures you deftly absorbed on your

path to clarity it’s only because they

don’t teach real history in the city

public schools because knowing is

not half the battle - it’s the war

don’t ask mid Turkey Day meal how

she feels about the food served at

your family’s feast because you won’t

like the dry-as-the-turkey look she

gives and before you think to reply

with “put some gravy on everything”

it’s not your job to remind her how

to hide disappointment since this

table ain’t her too america

you don’t have to insist on sitting

front row opening night of any

film with a black lead or even one

with a black supporting cast not

reduced to fixing the renewed white

girl’s hair on her way to the alter nor

can you fault her for not wanting to

stay in for your early Singleton binge

when she just wants a chance to laugh

though you grew up told your opinion

matters the fact is in certain moments

like when she’s with her friends and

has opened the circle to you it’s best

you use your ears and head nod and not

that mouth you feel endowed to use

like a first world faucet no not this

time because what you say will reinforce

all the side eye she has to absorb

when you’re trying to defy the rhythm

gods at her best friend from back in the day’s

wedding reception and Michael Jackson

comes in right after the remix to Ignition

keep your feet shuffling and fingers snapping

the beat because it’s not the time to talk

cancel culture and bring the party to a halt

so you can remind anyone in ear shot how

hot songs are not a victimless crime

you don’t understand so don’t think or god

forbid say you know what she’s going through

like you’re living some reality TV version

of Black Like Me because your fantasy has you

speechifying I Have a Dream or crying out

By Any Means Necessary and carried over

a sea of equality when all she wants to do

is get through each day without choosing

each word like it’s a matter of life or death


Matthew Daley has written commercials, documentaries, graphic novels, and the recent collection The Poet’s Guide to Basketball. He has taught every level from 5th grade through Graduate School, always finding ways to sneak great poetry into his curriculum. He's a father of three, husband of one, and a terrible singer/dancer who tries to turn many of his moments into a musical. His poetry can be found in 34th Parallel Magazine, Neologism, Detritus, The Cabinet of Heed, The Green Light, Forever Endeavor, Necro, Unlost Journal, and The Caterpillar.

"Marriage is a high-wire act, regardless of each spouse's background. It's a blind folded high-wire act when spouses represent different races. Love and hard work triumph over everything else, but things change for partners of different races (whether they want it to or not). I speak from nearly twenty years of experience. People react to you and talk to you differently when they learn that you are in an interracial relationship. Questions are reworded, friends and family and strangers can tiptoe around things like they are prancing about a minefield. Race has dominated American life since its inception and those brave enough to rewrite history deal with different level shit.

It's worth it, but for me (a well-meaning white dude raised in small towns and burbs and enlightened in cities and liberal universities), learning how to be both a husband of value and a worthy ally has come with some stumbles. No matter how many books I've read, classes I've sat through, friends I've made, and conversations I've had, I still don't know what it's like to be treated like an outsider. This means, more often than not, that the best thing I can do is shut up and listen. Really pay attention. If my eyes and ears are open, my mind and heart can be open. It'll never be enough, but again, love and hard work will win.

This poem is part of a collection called White Lies Matter. I recently finished it and if I cannot find a publisher for it, I'm considering turning it into a performance piece. "


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