{the worlds of the Other}

dry docked

synchronized skimmers,
bright mermaid fins flip. Damp in
the shallow end, I
waved my arms, and thought I swam.
tankini queens squeal
at cannonball splashes; preen
sidle, prattle and
pose for pairings while solo,
on the side, I clutch
my dry snorkel set, waiting
for a lane to clear.

I was thinking recently that some of my favorite poetry is about the Other in society, fiction and literature. Jane Yolen’s Once Upon is a firm favorite, as it reminds us of the ways in which the Other sometimes threatens us – and the lengths to which we go in order to overcome the Other and “win” the safety of similitude.

Michele Norris is a journalist, a familiar voice for years on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” and now a guest host and special correspondent. Norris recently took a sabbatical from NPR to work on a book and research her family roots, and during that research, trying to find herself, Michele found the American Other, the oldest elephant in an increasingly crowded living room is – the country’s discourse on race, and ownership on how we racially identify. Norris has tapped into this minefield with her Race Card Project, the six word glimpses of people’s thoughts on race.

A lot of Others in this project – and a lot of “othering.” A lot of fodder for poetry, too, in the voices of the hidden majority, uncomfortably angry, fragile, hopeful.

Sometimes, I think we’re all just trying to understand the rules, while others try to make them for us.

Here’s to keeping faith with who we are, and who we allow others to be, and swimming solo if we have to.

2 Replies to “{the worlds of the Other}”

  1. Tanita, is that your poem? I love the tankini queens who preen, and somehow all those long e sounds give me a feeling of being trapped in a very narrow space–perfect for the outsider looking at the Others.

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