Marty McConnell

notes on the warranted strife to come

My white heart sits at a distance from itself hearing
the news, murder on murder, starlings
dropped from an iron sky, harbingers
of no war I want to consider

but this is the alphabet of death: a glyph, boy
in frieze. His sister, handcuffed mid-keen
and tossed. Unholstered men considering
a body. What matters? Organ music

in the distance. Greek chorus
protests tragedy, tragedy, tragedy,
tragedy, tragedy, tragedy, tragedy. Blood
for real though. Every uniform’s a costume

which is a clever way of saying
I am not a murderer, though my skin
is. Until there was a word for blue
humans could not see it. Not

to blame language but let’s admit
we can’t hate what we can’t name.
Man, playground, gun, waist
band. Boy, swing set, imagin-

ation. Heart at a distance
from itself. Sky turning iron, storm
blue. Without a stage, tragedy
is news. Blood for real. Guns

and a sky so black with starlings
it could pass for sorrow’s army’s
proving ground. Circling, their eyes,
though we can’t see them, seeing red.



The weight of whiteness sits heavy on me now. A gold cape draped over the shoulders of a king staring at his own hands, their heavy rings, stooped like a beggar under metal, that terrible freight. Years ago, a therapist revealed to me how deeply sublimated desires had driven my most cherished decisions. To have acted without intention! To be moved by forces other than conscious logic! Infuriating. My friend insists she’s earned everything she has. Bootstraps, she says. From nothing, she says. Her blonde hair knotting in the wind. The king can hardly lift his head. The folds of the cape carved to perfection. He used to be a prince, he remembers. Best dancer in the land. How the peasants adored him, how they clapped their thin hands and sang. I have only ever been white and therefore deadly. White and therefore kin to killers. There’s no other way to say it. My Black friends understand, she says. They know I’ve killed myself for what I have.


Marty_McConnellMarty McConnell lives in Chicago, Illinois, where she coaches individuals and groups toward building thriving, sustainable lives and organizations. An MFA graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, her work has recently appeared in Best American Poetry, Southern Humanities Review, Gulf Coast, and Nashville Review. Her first full-length collection wine for a shotgun was published by EM Press.


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