Broken toe.

Dsc02480by Michelle Seyner01 Sep 2020

As a child,
I sensed the locks
on the past
I would never learn to pick.
I heard it in my
father's silence
and the vague echoes
of my grandfather's colonialism
in his voice.
I was aware
I was not white.
I saw it in
my mother's glare,
in how the white kids
excluded me.
I felt a discomfort
about racist "jokes"
I didn't have the
vocabulary to
express.
Words were either
secret knowledge
or enemies to me.
Words were the
daggers
giving me my
most mortal wounds.
But never were they
my defense.
Even if I had had
the vocabulary -
I wouldn't have
spoken up.
Racism was
a broken toe
compared to the
knife on my throat.
What was a broken toe
to me if I didn't
even know if I
would live to breathe
another day?
If I died,
what did a broken toe
matter to me?
And if I lived,
that broken toe
would get lost
in the cacophony
of my other pains,
swallowed up
by the silence
that offered me
a slim chance
of survival.
But I remembered
every discomfort
I had no name for,
and reading had me
collect words
like rare gems
I would
give away
one day.

25 August 2020.
Michelle Seyner.