Katy Keim has some skin in the game: entry 24

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“You are never to young to teach or too old to learn.” (Lady Macbeth)

Literati

Actually, I am not really sure who said that, but most likely it was not Lady Macbeth.  Just wanted your attention.  This contest IS about learning, unlearning,  or relearning–about ourselves, others, and racism in America.

Amazingly, (or not) a number of people have messaged me privately to urge me take sides in this dialog–but there are no sides to take.  If you can’t stand the heat, as Harry Truman once famously said, become vegetarian and eat raw food.

I am not, however, indifferent to the often contentious nature of the conversations. (And the word is contentious, not contemptuous)  I did find a quote to share, though, that I think is significant:

“I don’t believe any of (my friends) are consciously racist. If I did believe them to be consciously racist, they wouldn’t be my friends. (Implicit bias is an entirely different thing, but I think that failing to recognize your own privilege is a far lesser sin than conscious racism.)”

The emphasis added is my own, to this quote from Wake University Law Professor Tanya Marsh, who also provided the featured photo.

Now, enough ed-splaining myself as a prelude to this post. This entry comes from our youngest writer ( middle scholar–OOPS! SCHOOLER! –) Katy Keim: the first to enter our contest, and the first with a second entry. Katy is tuning her piano.  Someday, Carnegie Hall will be sold out for her.  Thanks for joining us again, Ms Keim.

Whose Skin is That? 

By Katalyn Keim

                               

Whose skin is that?

I may know.

Its owner is quite upset, though.

It really is a tale of woe.

I watch him frown.

I say hello.

 

He gives his skin a nice hard tug.

He is ashamed of the color of his mug.

 

His skin is brown, dark and deep,

He lies in bed with eyes that weep.

 

He slumps down in his bitter bed,

With only thoughts of sadness in his head,

He idolizes being dead.

He can’t decide if to stay in bed,

Or to face the day with eternal dread.

 

Should he stay or should he go?

He knows he should go, oh!

There will be nothing but pain, though!

He has no other place to go.

 

No food to eat,

No appointment to keep

No, he doesn’t matter…

So why not sleep?

 

The pigment on his skin,

They cannot accept,

That he is different than the rest.

 

He may as well just stay in bed.

They can’t hurt him if he’s dead.

 

*******

and now, from the amazing Paul Robeson, my personal hero, courageous activist who died in poverty, in the land of plenty (that would be our America).

 

 

20 comments

  1. Avatar
    Sarah Crysl Akhtar says:

    I thought your previous entry showed mature writing gifts and the sophistication to present complicated truths with deceptive simplicity. When I read it I thought the rest of us might as well just concede the field right there.

    This is, to me, not its equal, because its earnestness takes center stage.

    • Avatar
      Darrell Keim says:

      I think Sarah provides fair criticism in an encouraging voice. Such analysis is part of life, and will help my daughter grow. Thank you, Sarah.

      I also thank the many other commentors for their encouragement. Be assured Katy reads it all, and we’ve discussed much at home.

    • Avatar
      Sarah Crysl Akhtar says:

      In creative writing, but most especially poetry I think, slang words must be used with exceptional care. They can color the emotional atmosphere in ways that may diminish what an author intends. “Mug” is a good rough word, but it has certain cartoonish implications too, and needs to be reinforced. A word like “woe” works against it and not with it.

      “With only thoughts of sadness in his head,”–this line seemed superfluous to me; the grammatical construction distances the reader from his feelings; and the rest of the stanza is sufficient to tell us what you want us to know, in my view.

  2. Avatar
    Lady Pafia Marigold says:

    There is a beautiful match here, generations removed, between the agonies expressed in “Whose Skin Is This?”, poem by Ms. Katalyn Keim & “Ol Man River” music by Jerome Kern, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II & sung by the immortal Mr. Paul Robeson. Both reach my spirit in heart & mind through their life expressions of helplessness with realistic, depressive emotions. My life experiences have not been the same, yet I have known despair. Modern poetry to me is the journey to the interior core expressed so that we can empathise & poets can have catharsis with themselves. To me, “Whose Skin Is This” is therefore excellent.

    • Avatar
      Lady Pafia Marigold says:

      My apologies to the author, Ms. Keim, are offered for my misquoting of her poem’s title. Her poem’s title is actually “Whose Skin is That?”

  3. Avatar
    Miryam Howard says:

    Dearest Katalyn,
    I send you nothing but encouragement to continue your heart to write! Continue with fullness, knowing that the world has ears to hear authentic scribing!
    Very happy to read your entries.
    Mimi

    • Avatar
      Sarah Crysl Akhtar says:

      Nothing was quite as detrimental to the growth of my own writing than the people who praised it unreservedly when I was Katy’s age. It was so firmly inserted into my head that I was a great writer that I didn’t feel the need to actually become one.

      Of course, at that age I didn’t know the difference between intelligence and maturity, but the grownups ought to have. Would’ve saved me a lot of grief…

  4. Avatar
    Sarah Crysl Akhtar says:

    It’s unfortunate that Robeson, like so many others, could not see that the profound injustices of American society didn’t mean that the Soviet Union or the People’s Republic of China were by contrast Utopias. That fatal blindness enabled monstrous crimes to go unnamed for far too long. A devotion to any ideology, no matter how nobly it starts out, generally ends badly.

    • Avatar
      Sarah Crysl Akhtar says:

      There’s a uniquely American naivete touchingly convinced that somewhere–somewhere–there’s a perfect society. But human nature has no permanent cure; it’s a constant struggle to hold back the savage tide.

  5. Avatar
    Lady Pafia Marigold says:

    The life story of Paul Robeson, agree or disagree with his politics, is worth consideration. He was more than a singer/actor as a lawyer, a social activist against fasicism, imperialism & social injustices, briefly playing in the NFL & was a pioneer in refusing to perform for segregated audiences. He was falsely blacklisted as being affiliated with communism during the McCarthy era needing the supreme court to return several of his rights a decade later. He was involved with the Civil Rights Movement. Paul Robeson, Jr., wrote, “…he was an independent artist and would never submit to any kind of organizational discipline.”

    • Avatar
      Sarah Crysl Akhtar says:

      Paul Robeson was an admirer of and denier of the crimes of Stalin. It took Nikita Khrushchev of all people to set him straight on that. Robeson kept quiet about the executions of Jewish intellectuals and poets so as not to besmirch the reputation of the glorious Soviet paradise.

      We need to stop believing that people with great artistic gifts must therefore be great human beings. Some are, and some, like Robeson, in a position to speak out when victims could not, chose not to. Today we are quick to blame the silent, aren’t we?

      • Avatar
        Sarah Crysl Akhtar says:

        Robeson declined to join with Bayard Rustin and James Farmer in their civil rights work because both were adamantly opposed to Communism.

        It’s true that Robeson, like other Americans of many ethnicities, was harassed and abused by the CIA and FBI; he was not uniquely targeted. It’s also true that he was a remarkably privileged person at a time when for anyone–much less the son of a former slave–such attainments were rare. He had little excuse, I think, for such persistent naivete in the face of reality.

  6. Avatar
    Sarah Crysl Akhtar says:

    Robeson refused to join with Bayard Rustin and James Farmer in their civil rights work because they were adamantly opposed to Communism.

    Was he willfully blind or astoundingly naïve?

  7. Avatar
    Lady Pafia Marigold says:

    One of my dearest friends, Ms. Keim, found your poem to have a similar cadence to Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”, published in 1923. In the first three stanzas, lines 1, 2 & 4 rhyme. The last stanza rhymes in 1, 2 & 3 with the 4th repeating 3. His poem is also similar in being a contemplation of suicide from the harshness of life. Frost in real life was a depressive, criticised for his poetic style earlier in life, went on to become an American, poet laureate chosen for the JFK Inauguration where he read his own poem, “The Gift Outright”. His poem ends with the advice, “Such as she was, such she will become.”

    • Avatar
      Katy Keim says:

      LPM,

      Thank you for noticing! I have read “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” and I greatly admired Frost’s style, but any relation was purely a coincidence.

  8. Avatar
    Jon Tobias says:

    I like that the rhyming added a Seussian feel to the poem which was nicely juxtaposed with content. I also appreciated the use of, “dead”, because of the layers it offered. To do nothing is essentially to be nothing (dead) save for maybe being safe from the rest of the word, but at what cost?

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