sound & fury :: claudia rankine

Dispossessed despair, depression, despondent
dejection, the doom is the off-white of white. But wait,
white can’t know what white feels. Where’s the life in that?
Where’s the right in that? Where’s the white in that?

At the bone of bone white breathes the fear of seeing,
the frustration of being unequal to white. White-male portraits
on white walls were intended to mean ownership of all,
the privilege of all, even as white walls white in.

And this is understandable, yes,
understandable because the culture claims white
owns everything—the wealth
of no one anyone knows. Still the equation holds—
jobs and health and schools and better than
before and different from now and enough
and always and eventually mine.

This is what it means to wear a color and believe
the embrace of its touch. What white long expected
was to work its way into an upwardly mobile fit.
In the old days white included a life, even without luck
or chance of birth. The scaffolding had rungs
and legacy and the myth of meritocracy fixed in white.

Now white can’t hold itself distant from the day’s touch—
even as the touch holds so little white would own—
foreclosure vanished pensions school systems
in disrepair free trade rising unemployment unpaid
medical bills school debt car debt debt debt.

White is living its brick-and-mortar loss,
staving off more loss, exhaustion, aggrieved
exposure, a pale heart even as in daylight
white hardens its features. Eyes, which hold all
the light, harden. Jaws, which close down on nothing,
harden. Hands, which assembled, and packaged,
and built, harden into a fury that cannot call

power to account though it’s not untrue jobs were
outsourced and it’s not untrue an economic base
was cut out from under. It’s not untrue.

If people could just come clean about their pain,
the being at a loss when just being white
is not working. Who said there is no hierarchy
inside white walls? Who implied white owns
everything even as it owns nothing? But white
can’t strike its own structure. White can’t oust
its own system. All the loss is nothing
next to any other who can be thrown out.
In daylight this right to righteous rage doubles
down the supremacy of white in this way.


coherence in consequence :: claudia rankine

Imagine them in black, the morning heat losing within this day that floats. And always there is the being, and the not-seeing on their way to—

The days they approach and their sharpest aches will wrap experience until knowledge is translucent, the frost on which they find themselves slipping. Never mind the loose mindless grip of their forms reflected in the eye-watering hues of the surface, these two will survive in their capacity to meet, to hold the other beneath the plummeting, in the depths below each step full of avoidance. What they create will be held up, will resume: the appetite is bigger than joy. indestructible. for never was it independent from who they are. who will be.

Were we ever to arrive at knowing the other as the same pulsing compassion would break the most orthodox heart.

after david hammons :: claudia rankine

In the darkened moment a body gifted with the blue light of a flashlight
enters with levity, with or without assumptions, doubts, with desire,
the beating heart, disappointment, with desires—

Stand where you are.

You begin to move around in search of the steps it will take before you
are thrown back into your own body, back into your own need to be found.

Destinations are lost. You raise yourself. No one else is seeking.

You exhaust yourself looking into the blue light. All day blue burrows
the atmosphere. What doesn’t belong with you won’t be seen.

You could build a world out of need or you could hold everything
back and see. You could hold everything back. You hold back the black.

You hold everything black. You hold this body’s lack. You hold yourself
back until nothing’s left but the dissolving blues of metaphor.