I wake up first to the analog alarm, which I silence, and then my cell phone alarm comes on, playing “Morning Has Broken.” Morning brakes. I know there are men who don’t believe women are people and one of them just broke into the U.S. Presidency. The first time a stranger grabbed my crotch (a store in L.A.), I was 17, and when I yelled, I was ignored (which would become a theme). I ignore the alarm this broken mourning because I do not want to know, which means I know already. Later in another store (this time in New York City, the East Village, St. Mark’s Place, I think), a clerk cupped my ass with one hand, and when I asked him to stop, he said, “Why are you being so rude?” Escape in books, hard reading its opposite fraught with possibility. Last year in Wisconsin, needing to change the address on my voter registration, I went to the city clerk’s office bearing my passport and was told to come back with my lease. Voter ID laws, and Wisconsin falls. Pennsylvania. How many votes, if not suppressed, could have tipped that wall? Imagined a wall between my body and the men who ground against me in the subway at rush hour, car packed so tight I could never tell to whom the hard on belonged. Stiffed of belonging, imagine bombs without content. The opposite of feeling is ghost. Escaped with my body intact that time the man pulled out a badge, said, “I’m not going to ask you again.” Again a man staring at my thighs followed me across the street from the taqueria where I was eating alone, July 4th 2005, and hit me in the face, the storefront’s steel grill behind me reverberating into a bruised afternoon, and as usual, I yelled, and as usual, no one intervened. Distraught in possibility, the men are afraid of becoming redundant, the whites are afraid of going extinct. I say this to my mother, who is white. I say “they,” not “you,” not her, a part of me. 61% European by the DNA test = 0% white by the one drop law, a ghosting.
Lauren Russell’s first full-length book, What’s Hanging on the Hush, is forthcoming from Ahsahta Press, and her chapbook Dream-Clung, Gone came out from Brooklyn Arts Press in 2012. A Cave Canem fellow, she was the 2014-2015 Jay C. and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing and was the 2016 VIDA Fellow to the Home School. She is Assistant Director of the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics at the University of Pittsburgh.