Post-Racial

by T.J. Sandella Issue: Spring/Summer 2020

"Walking meditation is first and foremost a practice to bring body and mind together peacefully."
        - Thích Nhất Hạnh

"But what if I should discover that…the poorest of all the beggars, the most impudent of all the offenders, the very enemy himself—that these are within me…what then?"
        - Carl Jung

I shorten my stride,
focus on my breath—in, out, 
deep, slow—trying to bring body 
and mind together peacefully, 
to imitate the tight-lipped monks
circling their ashrams, 

but my mind 
is less obedient than my mutt,
part Rottweiler, part Shepherd,
who—though agitated 
by the chatty squirrels 
that dart perilously close 
as if to prove their bravery—
still stays by my side, wants them less 
than he wants to hear good boy,
a few scratches under his chin.

So, we walk—quiet, conflicted—

the sky darkens, 
squirrels retreat to their nests,
and we find ourselves 
under the graffitied bridge 
most people avoid when, suddenly, 
another set of footfalls join mine, 
distant innocuous echoes 
at first, and then faster, louder,

until my fearful imagination
works itself into a lather,
all thoughts of peace and monks 
immolated here on the sidewalk 
and in this pile of ash 
is my pride, which, until now, 
had held my gaze forward,
so finally, I turn and lock eyes 
with the hooded Black teenager
trailing some 15 feet behind,

and despite my indignation—
my sorrow for Black boys laid low
because they were hooded and Black—
despite it, I pick up the pace, 
glance over my shoulder 
every few steps, watch the distance between us 
shrink, consider running, loosing 
the dog, wonder for the millionth time
if the city is safe, if I need
a gun, and what I would do now
if I had one,

but when I turn again—
to confront him this time—
he nods then crosses over
to the other side of the street,
to my great relief
and shame.

Is this the terrible mercy 
he’s already learned 
to show white people,

or has he considered 
how this night
could end—flashing lights,
crying mothers, Tamir was murdered
just a few blocks from here—

or does his crossing 
have nothing to do with me
or the stories I tell?

Walking is too slow—
I want to run
from the worst parts of myself
like my dog kicks away from me
in leashless dreams. I want to
chase down goodness and carry it softly back
between my sharp and treacherous teeth.



T.J. Sandella

T.J. Sandella is the author of Ways to Beg (Black Lawrence Press, 2021), and is the recipient of two Academy of American Poets Prizes, an Elinor Benedict Prize for Poetry, a William Matthews Poetry Prize, and two Pushcart Prize nominations. A former contributor to Cold Mountain Review, he also has work in the Best New Poets anthology, New Ohio Review, Poet Lore, the Chattahoochee Review, Poetry Northwest, and Hotel Amerika, among others. You can find him @egregiousteej, at tjsandella.com, or in Cleveland, Ohio.