Being white and having attended a few
racial justice meetings where the talk
is of cultivating authentic relationships
with people of color, I asked a black co-worker
if he’d like to come over for dinner. He answered
my question with a question of his own: “Why?
I mean, it’s not like we’re friends or anything.”
“Well, I’m trying to cultivate,” I recited,
“more authentic relationships with people
of color.” He made a face. “Cultivate?
As in, your garden? As in, you want some more
purple eggplants, some more token negritude
in the pale, pathetic, privileged patch that is
your life?” Ouch. He wasn’t going to make this
easy. Lean into the discomfort, I remembered
them saying at the racial justice meetings
in the suburb where I live, where a person of color
is as rare as a white eggplant among the aubergines.
“Not token,” I said, smiling and wincing
at the same time. “For real.” And it felt a little like
asking someone out on a date, someone
a little out of my league. “The real question,” he said,
stroking his chin in a pensive attitude, then twirling
his imaginary mustache while sizing up my imaginary
chef’s hat, “is what’s for dinner? Something
toothsome, I hope.” And he gave me his beautiful teeth.
Paul Hostovsky‘s tenth book of poetry, LATE FOR THE GRATITUDE MEETING, is forthcoming from Kelsay Books. His poems have won a Pushcart Prize, two Best of the Net awards, and have been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and The Writer’s Almanac. Website: paulhostovsky.com