January 8, 2023


“Into the Racism Workshop”

For Alma Banda Goddard

my cynical feet ambled

prepared for indigestion

& blank faces of outrageous innocence

knowing I’d have to walk over years of media

declaring we’re vanished or savage or pitiful or noble

My toes twitched when I saw so few brown faces

but really when one eats racism every time one goes out one’s door

the appeal of talking about it is minuscule

I sat with my back to the wall facing the door

after I changed the chairs to a circle

This doesn’t really protect me

but I con myself into believing it does

One of the first speakers piped up

I’m only here because my friend is Black & wanted

me to do this with her

I’ve already done

300 too many racism workshops

Let it be entered into the Book of Stars

that I did not kill her or shoot a scathing reply from the hip

I let it pass because I could tell she was very interested in taking

up all the space with herself & would do it if I said a word

They all said something that I could turn into a poem

but I got tired & went to sleep behind my interested eyes

I’ve learned that the most important part of these tortures

is for them to speak about racism at all

Even showing up is heresy

because as we all know racism is some vague thing that really doesn’t

exist or is only the skinheads on a bad day or isn’t really a crucial problem

not as important certainly as queers being able to marry

or get insurance for each other

When they turned to me as resident expert on the subject

which quite honestly I can’t for the life of me understand

or make any sense out of

I spoke from my feet

things I didn’t know I knew

of our connections

of the deadly poison that racism is for all of us

Maybe some of them were touched

but my bitch voice jumps in to say


I heard back that someone thought I was brilliant

Does that mean that I speak well

Or that she was changed

It’s only her change

I need


Chrystos, a writer and artist, identifies with her father’s Native American ancestry, a background that is an essential part of her writing. The other dominant aspect of her work is her identity as a lesbian. Works by Chrystos include Not Vanishing (1988), Dream On (1991), In Her I Am (1993), Fugitive Colors (1995), and Fire Power (1995). She is also co-editor of Best Lesbian Erotica 1999. Her poems have appeared in a number of anthologies and she was the winner of the Audre Lorde International Poetry Competition in 1994 and the Sappho Award of Distinction from the Astraea National Lesbian Action Foundation in 1995.

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