Leora Fridman on "Grown to Covet"

Grown to Covet

I am the most myself when watching
a stranger hit my hand

I am the most rested
when I hate on this land

I am the most accepting
but no town wants to agree

to accept a mucking
in our very clean sea

because clean is also a venture
a good delivery man

because too much comprehension
is also a demand

my fault has grown these days
so many lumps in one place

I have grown to covet
a more committed race

I have grown to covet
skin tilting on a place

this is why we all
are humbled by a face

 

On "Grown to Covet" 

Living in a climate of the gentrifying Bay Area and its intersections and allegiances with the movement for Black lives, I'm grateful to have been given opportunities to take responsibility for my racial and economic privilege, and to try to find ways to act as an ally for justice in a consistent and straightforward way. In this political climate, I've notice how easy it is to define oneself in opposition to another, and "Grown to Covet," dips into my ambivalence toward the relationship between politics and ego. I want to remain human in my politics, and not get lazy by taking on simple popular rhetoric or preconceived sets of beliefs. I want to make a choice every day to work authentically for the value of human life and human voices in the face of historic, ingrained and systemic racism. I'm aware that I must make these choices again and again—daily, hourly, and by the moment—in order to counter racist assumptions and integrate my values in everyday speech and action. They are not choices that are made once and then set, or a set of phrases one can simply repeat and thus embody.

As a writer (and a speaker) I am conscious of how slippery the language of associating oneself politically can be. It can turn so easily to ego-driven self-consciousness, to statements (i.e. that one is an ally to a movement) that are not backed up by action, to a simple way of differentiating oneself from others, to a distancing from the human into the theoretical. "Grown to Covet" is interested in that slipperiness, and attempts to echo some of the ways a mind moves through political discourse on a personal and on a public level.

I'm variously and always obsessed with blame and responsibility: how to take responsibility, how to blame and forgive, who is responsible for whom, etc. Fault itself is a mathematics, a system for understanding where we stand. Like many of the poems in my book My Fault, "Grown to Covet" is interested in responsibility and fault but, more specifically here, in how we're defined by what we're responsible for. It attempts to talk through some of the ways we take a stance and open those ways up for examination. Lumpy and covetous, this poem is an attempt to bring some nuance and a human face to rhetoric, the messy, strident, vague, misheard, poorly repeated—but in the end still language, one of the few tools we possess with which we can attempt to comprehend each other. 

 

 

 
 

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