“Positive affirmations of whiteness are so widespread that the average white person doesn’t even notice them” —Renni Eddo-Lodge, from the book “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race.”
Torie DiMartile is a spoken word poet and a graduate student in Anthropology at Indiana University.
She has performed at the Bloomington Poetry Slam and self-published a chapbook called Slip and Score in 2014. She is a hoarder of poetry anthologies, old postcards and corny jokes.
Growing up as one of two adopted brown children and living in an Italian-American home in a small white Kentucky town, she formed a deep love for food, the outdoors and the liminal. Living life in between Black and White, her work honors the middle ground and the loneliness and resilience that can be found there.
She runs an Instagram page and a small business called Wreckage and Wonder where she educates white adoptive parents of Black and Brown children on how to cultivate and validate their children’s racial identity.
Welcome to the Poets Weave. I'm Romayne Rubinas Dorsey. Torie, what poems have you brought for us today?
White girls on the church walls
sitting in the lap of Jesus in the library entrance mural.
Their only blemishes the dimples in the concrete.
I think of the book momma reads before bed
“Children come in all the colors of the earth
in the roaring browns of bears
and soaring eagles
and crackling russets of fallen leaves
the whispering golds of late summer grasses
the tinkling pinks of tiny seashells by the rumbling sea.”
But there are no roaring browns, crackling russets or whispering golds
Maybe those are only for home, for bedtime stories wrapped in darkness
Maybe those aren’t for public, aren’t for murals, aren’t for churches
Maybe brown and black girls aren’t meant to be seen.
For four weeks I’ve had my hand up.
For four weeks Iris – who sits next to me has been called on instead.
For four weeks I have said something intelligent and captivating in class.
For four weeks someone says “who said that?”
For four weeks what comes out of my brown mouth
is attributed to
Allison, Annie or Lexi.
For four weeks I watch everyone applaud
and ohh and ahh at
coming out of a white girl’s mouth.
A line of pretty white girls four ponytails wide
sweep the sidewalk of any lesser thing.
I just happen to be in the wake with other debris.
They strutting down this single file concrete
Like God outdid himself.
I have to be mutiny, jump ship
and avoid a yield sign to get out of their way.
I wonder if they know that this ship is tired, and yes,
People are just people
and ear buds in and phones out don’t
necessarily mean they got some kind of beef with me.
But I wonder if they know this has become like
a thoughtless bedtime routine
where I don’t take up space,
every day on a sidewalk on the way home.
I wonder if they know this ship is tired
and the memory of brown girls four bodies deep,
stacked like patty cakes to save space
is still on my skin like an aura of seasick
and I’m tired of jumping ship.
You, white girl - the ocean I have to swim across
just to take up space in public.
Today, I decide instead
to spill my wonderful across the concrete lines
and be brown and beautiful in public.
Imma put my anchor here for a while,
stake my territory with body,
claim what is just as much mine as yours.
You've been listening to poems by Torie DiMartile on the Poets Weave. I'm Romayne Rubinas Dorsey.