THE METRO IS crowded today, and the 20-something, well-dressed white man has to stand, one hand holding the bar and the other his smartphone. It’s the end of the day. All the commuters—but one—are turned toward home. The young man’s face, like most of the others, is dulled with exhaustion. No one makes eye contact.
In a seat near the door, one woman sits facing everyone, looking backward. She studies the young man’s face intently, uncomfortably. He shifts. She rearranges the bags at her feet. Her reflection in the window shows an ashy neck above her oversized T-shirt collar. The train hums and clicks through a tunnel. As if in preparation, she takes another sip from the beat-up plastic cup she’s holding.
At last, she raises her voice and asks: “Why are white people so mean?” Boom! The electricity of America’s third rail crackles through the train. Faces fold in like origami or turn blank like a screensaver. …–Rose Marie Berger
Read the whole essay here: http://sojo.net/magazine/2013/08/why-are-white-people-so-mean
I wrote this strange little poem a few years ago. It wasn’t prompted by anything happening in the Middle East, but as I revisit it now, there is some element of lament that resonates with my current lament for the people in Gaza and Israel.
Some Songs Required
by Rose Marie Berger
Down the river from Babylon
there was a city of Dales,
not quite like Zion. In Nutdale,
Elmdale, and Oakdale people sat
two by two in boxes neatly stacked
where they wept without knowing why.
Upriver, Babylon heard only their singing
in a special language of clicks and snaps;
not in the stringed language of the lyre,
that riffled and flowed over the feet
of the Stored Ones. True too that the Dale-dwellers
babbled in a tongue fewer and fewer of them
could understand. Instead they stared:
at each other, at the river, pointing out the little
heads of children, afloat like golden boats
on the current. While Babylon, teeth sharp
from gnawing on its platinum
bedpost at night, reached down its
right hand to touch the flag hanging
limp between its legs. A single gold tear
slipped away to tell the others.