SAL/ON

A Blog of Seattle Arts & Lectures

“Whitey’s on TRAPPIST-I,” by Azura Tyabji

Whitey’s on TRAPPIST-I
inspired by Gil Scott Heron

Recently, NASA discovered 7 earth sized planets orbiting a single star 40 light years away

One.

Another black woman
has crumbled to take a bullet in record time again.
There is no spaceship named after her.
We forget she had a name outside of bulk order eulogy.
Meanwhile,
Whitey is 40 light years away
making history in the way white men
love to be the fist to tame something that is content with being left alone.

Whitey has dreams of more heroic adventures
than his name being remembered after the funeral.

Two.

Ben Keita is lynched in Lake Stevens
and Whitey is 40 light years away.
He’s terraformed his new planet by now, grown trees unhaunted by a black boy’s neck.
All the fruit that hangs here is cruelty-free.
History too heavy to ship so
Whitey left it behind.

Three.

The families of all the Black kids gone too soon
turn their faces in the pictures towards the wall as Whitey lives a new slate.
One step for mankind, but we
are stuck  ⅗ of the way.
So why applaud a white man for doing what he does best?
Gaslighting our trauma to fuel his spaceships?

Four.

The Keystone XL Pipeline starts running and Whitey is 40 light years away.
He has discovered unfrozen water,
dips his feet in a lake as compliant as a mirror.
The long drink goes down easy, but
starts to blister his throat with lead and oil.
Rashes bloom angry with nostalgia on his skin and he thinks he’s learned what it is like to starve
to have a planet set against you,
reach into a well and lure only up
betrayal.

Five.

Whitey is drowning in lead and don’t this feel familiar?
He is on some other hero’s leftovers
This planet too, has nothing left to give. 

Six.

Meanwhile back on Earth,
America has crumbled under its weight.
History too heavy for the flag to fly straight anywhere but a funeral.
We have decades of mourning
and centuries of healing.

Seven.

Whitey returns to Earth thirsty for forgiveness and we turn his ass away.
We don’t need him no more and we be damned
if we let him appropriate this joy.

In our renewed Earth,
we have forgotten the language for “thank you, officer.”
We have dissolved his borders, broken his prisons, and blocked his revolving door of oppressors.

Here
the water is good again.
In it we have baptized our families with names more sacred than criminal.

Here
every brown kid is a star worth wishing on and every black girl
a sun so bright she can never go missing—
and Whitey
asks how much
a ticket back to Earth cost

and we say
“we don’t need your money no more.”
We’ve burned it all for warmth, but
mostly for
fun.

We ask
“what are you willing to give back?” instead.

We are the reparations at the center of the universe
And Whitey
is 40 light years away.


Azura Tyabji is Seattle’s 2018/19 Youth Poet Laureate. Performed at SAL’s Poetry Series event with Danez Smith on November 26, 2018, at Broadway Performance Hall.

Posted in PoetryYouth Poet Laureate2018/19 Season