Literary Yard

Search for meaning

‘A Tale of Two Plantations’ and other poems

By: CLS Sandoval

A Tale of Two Plantations

Myth of Black Confederates
Lies of those who tell themselves that
Confederate statues are important to remind us of our white heritage

Imagine a Bronzed homage to the Third Reich in Munich
You will have to
It’s not there

White Southerners who see themselves as evolved
May say
“But we need to be reminded of our past sins”

Imagine an artist’s rendition of John Wayne Gacy
In Chicago or Springfield
Just so we don’t forget

Beauvoir can only look beautiful to those of us with privilege
To those whose ancestors were enslaved on the plantation
This is Guantanamo Bay, a prettied-up internment camp


In the Teachers’ Lounge

“I write,” I say, “that’s how I live the life I want.”
“Good point,” he responds. “You’d make Wittgenstein proud”
“Or Descartes,” I suggest.
“Maybe I meant Kierkegaard,” he corrects himself
“I don’t know,” I say, “I’m not familiar”
“Obviously neither am I.”
I wonder if he knows how much I write about him.


Put Your Hand on the Flag Pole

The day Bree Newsome climbed the flagpole to take down the Confederate flag in South Carolina, the cops knew that they could destroy her by tasing the pole. James Tyson went from ally to co-conspirator that day. He put his hand on the pole.

When I look into my daughter’s brown velvet eyes, when I see her brown skin, when I think of all the ways that I will need to protect her, I imagine myself watching as she shimmies up whatever flagpole of racism she will inevitably face. I see myself. I will not stand outside of the gate. I won’t just try to talk the cops out of taking action. I will leverage my whiteness for my girl.

I look around my classroom. It’s full of many shades of brown. Nearly none of my students look anything like me. I am too lead them, to teach them. How do I put it all on the line for them? Everyday, I must find a new way.


People Who Look Like Me

People who look like me must have been tired of fighting other people who look like me
So, they demonized the Black body
They raped and killed the Black body

They forced James Baldwin to become an optimist
Burden him with optimism
When it was far too heavy

“We shall overcome,” rang out in spite of all evidence against the claim
Dr. King explained that he had been to the mountain top
Just in time for his to become the latest Black body snuffed out by people who look like me

It’s so easy for people who look like me to say that Black people make everything about race
But it wasn’t Black people who invented race
It was people who look like me


Still Trying

I read somewhere that gnawing on one’s cuticles is an indication of perfectionism. As the person notices that the skin around their fingers isn’t perfect, they pick and bite, inevitably leading to the bursting forth of bright red blood. What appears to everyone else as sheer destruction is to the nail biter and ill executed attempt to correct the uncorrectable.

Growing up, I saw the world in a moral black and white, wanting nothing more than to right injustices. When the teacher never called on the one Black girl in class, I raised my hand and announced that Kimberly had something to say. When Jerome wasn’t picked in dodgeball, I said I would sit out, too. When Maria came to my house selling candy bars for the Chicano Club, I bought extra.

It was always the roughest part of the cuticle near my nail bed that got me picking and nibbling the most.

I can’t remember a time that I didn’t want to somehow be a voice for the voiceless. When I was growing up in Poway, a man with cerebral palsy used to walk up the private drive to our house every couple of weeks or so to sell vacuum cleaners and other small household appliances. My mother always bought one. She taught me that everyone was the same in terms of value. Even though we all have different capabilities, we are all important.

I once tried putting hand cream on my fingers and gloving up before I went to sleep. That just made my hands sweat all night.

When Karissa had a stroke on the playground in the third grade I was one of the first to go to her side in hopes of being some kind of help. When I had Deaf students in my public speaking class, I spent 10 classes learning sign language. When I adopted an African-American child, I took her to a Black church. Whenever I saw what I perceived to be an injustice, I tried to help.

Others have suggested that I put Tabasco on my nails, but I really have too many bleeding sores to stand that. Maybe Band-Aids, except that will make it awfully tough to eat, type, and write.

I have learned that I am no white savior. It is up to me to educate myself and educate others of us who have this internalized, systematic racism. The only person I can help is myself. I can always say I’m working on it but I still haven’t stopped biting my nails.


On Whiteness

A student of mine was upset by the first assignment in our intercultural class
The assignment was an intercultural party
Bring three representations of your culture
Food, clothing, literature, music
She was concerned
She claimed she had no culture
She was white
So am I

It’s a misunderstanding of White Privilege to claim we have no culture
We see the cultures of our BIPOC friends
We don’t see ours
It’s invisible to us because we are central, centered in the dominate culture
The way we do things
Our food, our clothing, our literature, our music
That’s the standard of our culture

We don’t see our culture because whiteness is absolutely everywhere


CLS Sandoval, PhD is a pushcart nominated writer and communication professor with accolades in film, academia, and creative writing who speaks, signs, acts, publishes, sings, performs, writes, paints, teaches and rarely relaxes.  She has presented over 50 times at communication conferences, published 15 academic articles, two academic books, three full-length literary collections: God Bless Paul, Soup Stories: A Reconstructed Memoir, and Writing Our Love Story, and three chapbooks: The Way We Were, Tumbleweed:  Against All Odds, and The Villain Wore a Hero’s Face.  She is raising her daughter and dog with her husband in Alhambra, CA.

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