Keep it in the family: Intolerance


Part 1: Intro

99.9% Caucasian
my electorate
as a child.

Part 2: Nepotism

“It’s not the same.”
My anger flares –
I’m thirteen, reading
a congratulatory letter –
one sent to my mother
after my birth.

Sent from Aunt Ada
“It’s been a long time
since there’s been a
baby in the family!”

Except that it’s not.

She does acknowledge
my two cousins, but
“It’s not the same” for
they are adopted.

I’m appalled by
the prejudice, as if
it could be contagious,
a lurking, tainted, threat.

Part 3: Racism

She warned my mother
not to “spoil me with sweets”.
As my Grandmother, she took that
to be her prerogative.

She exercised patience
in her friendship with
an uneducated, hairy-chinned,
female, village outcast.

She sang Chapel hymns
with tears in her eyes,
as I rolled mine, and
awkwardly cringed.

But, she could also easily
make me see red, when
she’d start with her fearful
“I hear Indians are moving in”.

I’d try to quash the conversation
“How nice to meet new people,
it will be exciting to learn
from another culture.”

Rarely, would she desist,
and I’d have to walk away,
or hang-up the phone,
but why that one day?

I stormed off
didn’t say goodbye,
to my regret,
the next day she died.

Part 4: Aspiration for tolerance

That I accept and acknowledge
that those I hold dear have faults,
and to love them dearly for
the qualities they do possess.

However, may I never fall
into complacency, and always
stand as an ally to those who
would fall prey to discriminative views.

Note: Posts may be disrupted, as I embark on the next leg of my sabbatical (five days in Switzerland before heading on to the States).


4 thoughts on “Keep it in the family: Intolerance

  1. Initially I didn’t like the sectional form until I appreciated how it clarified the recording. I’m wary of numbered parts since being sentenced by multiple school detentions for my inability to recall what excerpt of Tennyson’s Lady of Shallot was in which part. There must be a discriminatory term for that. So I concede that your opening device ranks you with those great.

    While the recollections are sad, the exposé also reveals the poets patience and her understanding of those who lived in histories different to ours. Overall I would call this an educational (didactic?) and ultimately uplifting piece.

    • Originally, I was going to keep nepotism and racism as separate poems, but then I recognised my own potential for being intolerant of others’ intolerances, and so I felt I needed to round it out with the final part, and so it all ended up in together!

      I can understand your aversion to part poems after that teaching experience…much the same for me when I tried to study English at university, where the first year final exam would contain random quotes from texts that we were expected to seemed nothing more than a check up to see if we’d read everything on the considerably long list..I dropped out..

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