My MFA program offered me the opportunity to work with several amazing writers. I was pointed to text after text and told, “Read. Learn.” I did. The more I read, the more I wrote. I experienced the world through authors who challenged. Their topics were race, place, institution, thought… Every piece struck a chord with me.

Some works resonate on a much deeper level. Gil Scott Heron’s “Whitey on the Moon” (actually shared with me by my husband), is one such piece. If you haven’t read it, please click the link and read it now.

As I was encouraged to do in grad school, I did again after reading “Whitey on the Moon”. I sat with the shape of Heron’s work and considered what it triggered for me. Then, in his style (but without his grace), I put down my own frustrations.

I hope this is received in kinship with the struggles of race and class. Whitey on the Moon spoke to me about where we stand and where we are allowed to stand. In a time when many are shot down to prevent them from standing, and not just held down in the way Heron writes about, it is especially important to look back to see if we’ve moved forward at all.

At Home in Indiana

I once was laid up sick in bed
certain each breath I’d be dead
hallucinating nurses who would
wheel me through the walls.

I spent my nights in fevered shakes
Mornings though, the fever’d break
and I would think just maybe
I’ll go walking round the halls.

I left the gown but took the socks
at home I roamed the clean sidewalks
friends and family and strangers
gave help and clamored round.

And when I cried tears of delight
they told me it was ‘cause I’m White
that anyone would aid my fight
at home in Indiana.

I’ve never felt so color bound
except the days I was too brown
and everybody cast me down
at home in Texarkana.

What am I? This olive skin
in the Midwest I began again
they shrugged, “You are American.”
they took me on and called me friend
at home in Indiana.

Perhaps it is that I’m not odd
my skin is not considered flawed
is that the same as White? Not flawed?
At home in Indiana?

But White does not feel right to me
Nor Black nor Brown nor anything
You see, I’ve always been between
Since home in Texarkana.

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Shawna Ayoub

Shawna Ayoub is an essayist, fiction writer, poet and instructor with an MFA in creative writing from Indiana University. Some of her work has been published in The Manifest-Station, Role Reboot, [wherever], The Huffington Post, The Oxford Review and Exit 7. Her writing explores the intersections of race, place and survivorship. She writes with honesty about her own experience in order to transform pain.

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