Learning How to Disappear

This poem arose from racial violence incited by Donald Trump during his presidential campaign. The fervor with which individuals responded to his stoking the fires of white supremacy reminded me of a period in my childhood when the KKK was a neighborhood player. My family was not exempt from their profiling and terror tactics. 

In Case of Fire (for Donald Trump)

White sheets march
off the laundry line
at sunset

Your mother
across the alley of our yards
twists shut her
blinds. Her

thin fingers do not
shake like my mother’s as
she folds me
into the bathtub

says to turn
the water on
in case of fire

And whatever you hear, stay put
hold your breath don’t
let the pointed shadows
find you.

Your mother at the kitchen table
platter emptied of cookies
she fed us
after school.

We played Barbies,
Slap Jack,
Hide-and-Seek until
you gave up

wanted to know how
I learned to

In Case of Fire

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.

5 Discussion to this post

  1. Stacia says:

    There is so much thoughtfulness in showing but not naming the threat–the image of the sheets “march[ing] off the laundry line” and the “pointed shadows.” A child wouldn’t know in so many words, and the adults probably wouldn’t explain it, either, only firmly but gently insist upon quiet. This poem gave me chills. I wish safety for you, your family, and all the families like yours who remember and fear. <3

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  2. Heart-wrenching for a child to live in such scary world of prejudice and injustice…..Shaky hands of mother try to protect but are unsure of what the future holds….the last bit about hide and seek as a game and then as a survival tactic was profound as well as poignant….

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