If anything describes the last year, it’s Franny Choi’s “Whiteness Walks into a Bar.” It’s difficult to ignore the privilege and the denial of that privilege even existing. If white privilege exists, then why xyz? As if that is sound argument. Covid deniers took the street, filled their Facebook walls and Twitter feeds with Q-anon conspiracy theories. They boasted how they were freethinkers, unlike the sheep who wore masks, continued to socially distance, and fear for their well beings. As the numbers continued to rise, they made statements that maybe grandma should take one for Team America. And when it was their own grandmothers dying of covid, they complained how disrespectful Twitter can be.
Last year, Donald Trump lit the fuse when he referred to Covid-19 as the “China virus.” And his blatant racism exploded, placing the social crosshairs towards anyone of Asian decent. Yet he has doubled down since then, continually using the racist-filled epithet to stoke the fires. To give his followers reason. And elderly lady was beaten in public. A child was told she was a virus. People who grew up in this country were told to go back to wherever it was they came from.
So when I listened to this poem last month, I knew it had to be apart of my list. So for the twenty-fifth poem, I present to you “Whiteness Walks into a Bar” by Franny Choi.
I don’t know why I like this poem; I wish I could tell you, but it’s something that just cannot be explained. In fact, I can’t begin to explain why I love the book this poem comes from. Or what it is about Alex Lemon that just brings me to that place where inspiration meets paper.
So without explanation, I present to you today’s poem: “I Love You Big Brother” by Alex Lemon. Please enjoy.
I’ve chosen Anne Sexton for today’s poem because of my brother. Not because this poem relates to anything he’s felt – at least, not of which I am aware. I chose Anne Sexton because she’s his favorite poet. I chose “Wanting to Die” because I too “have nothing against life,” but that hasn’t stopped me from wondering.
What kept me from stepping off that ledge has been the fear of what happens next. Not the fear of heaven or hell, my “immortal soul,” or what rewards or punishments await me when my heart stops, brains stops firing off signals, and lungs rest after their last breath. It’s the idea that while I’ll experience my death, I will not remember it. I will hold no memory of it. Will not tell its story or discuss it with friends. It’ll be a dreamless sleep, erasing me from this world. I’ll exist only in the memories of those who loved me until their end comes.
So for today’s poem, I have chosen “Wanting to Die” by Anne Sexton for a couple of reasons.
Learned about Joy Harjo the same way I learned about most of the poets I read in my twenties – through my creative writing class. So for the twentieth poem, I have chosen “Grace” by Joy Harjo. Please enjoy.