The Exchange: blue is darker than Black

The Weekly's poetry corner offers our thoughts in exchange for yours

  1. The Exchange: To Our Flags
  2. The Exchange: The Negro Speaks of Dryland
  3. The Exchange: blue is darker than Black
  4. The Exchange: Sans Fleur
  5. The Exchange: Blindspot
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blue is darker than Black
by Chima “Naira” Ikoro

I’m at work sitting at the hostess stand
when a Black man walks up to me
and lingers in my peripheral.
I try not to look up at him
until he speaks.
His voice caches on his lips–
it sounds like he’s at the end of a long shift. or a rope. maybe?
maybe he is bored;
it’s almost quitting time.
I could hear it in the shifting of his feet;
“almost quitting time.”
He asks me questions about the restaurant—tryna see if he can
get in.
I think he should go home. He knows I don’t wanna talk to him so
why is he talking
to me?

Maybe I remind him of his daughter,
or a girl he knew when he was
younger.
Maybe he sees that
instead of looking him in the eyes
I am staring at my own reflection
in his badge
and he thinks his soft voice can heal me—
ain’t it quitting time, officer?
you could have been anything in the world,
but instead you picked a shade of blue that is darker than Black
and impossible to see past.
It’s not my fault that you decided to wear yourself
inside out,
all of your brown parts read like wounds, opening over and over,
every word you speak is to the tune of flesh rotting—
a nightmare. a sheep in wolf’s clothing.
someone my daughter or younger self might mistake for an ally,
a slide of a hand that reaches for mine,
a diversity trick up the mayors sleeve.
It is not my fault
that you wake up every morning and dress yourself as a stranger.
I know
you know I am uncomfortable,
and yet you’re tryna pry your small talk between my anxiety—
if you wanna fill these gaps so bad
then ain’t it quitting time? Officer?

A cop walks up to me while I am at work.
He is Black, and he is tired, and that is not my problem.
Could he even imagine how tired
I am?
Chima Ikoro is the community organizing editor for the Weekly. She last wrote about Juneteenth becoming a recognized federal holiday.

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Prompt

“Talk about a time where something that felt safe tried to sink you.”

This could be a poem or a stream-of-consciousness piece. Submissions could be new or formerly written pieces.

Submissions can be sent to bit.ly/ssw-exchange or via email to chima.ikoro@southsideweekly.com.

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Featured below is a reader response to a previous prompt. The last poem and prompt can be found here.

THE SINNER, THE CHASM, AND THE EARTH THAT CRIED FOR RED DEW DRENCHED FLOWERS
by Dontay M. Givens

I have been long lost,
my humanity must pay
a debt, in blood.
I have drank, I have

consumed, forbidden
nothingness that lays hidden
behind the gate of the gods.
My skin diffused,

I burned marks into my flesh.
For myself, fashioned ruby
red curses; for others, I’ve
drawn marks of nugatory

grief—the immutable chasm
that is carnage has distorted,
the small semblance
of humanity remaining.

Isolation and hermitage
have writhed my body, my flesh
has cracked, the markings
have bled; I have paid

the ratking by the pound. All that is left:
my debts. I fear surrendering my existence,
I have lived a self-seeking life
exiled by my body, rejected by Earth.

Barren Sister Earth,
forget the blood I have spilled,
the wailing of the flowers covered
in red dew won’t leave my ears.

Forgive me, oh merciful Sister,
forget me: my name, my face,
my smell, my vagabondage, my sins.
Condemn me to Dead Man’s Path,

I will walk until the cosmos forgets
how to hold itself up without your touch.
Oh, God of charity, our atlas will one day
implode, Sky will vomit fire and brimstone,

Sun will wail a long sinless song—blood debts will never be paid, will you forget me then?

Dontay M. Givens is a writer from East Garfield Park. You can find him on Instagram @nappy.loc!

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