dear barack obama,
now we have come to the end of your time as the president of the united states of america, the end of your black presidency. let’s just say it – perhaps the end of the world.
i have some things to say to you, but you do not know me, so i shape here a letter or poem out of my feelings instead, and i place it into the wilderness of my computer so perhaps you will feel it somehow.
to begin, i am a blood mutt like anyone else. you and i can point to this and that, and say white, black, brown, complicated, multi, mixed, melanin-blessed, etc. but each story is different, and i did not live yours.
i think we are important, we who are overtly between, raised between, knowing the difference and un-difference, the construct, and the breath inside the construct when someone says ‘die nigger’ to our fathers, to us, or asks where we are from, as a threat.
i am the daughter of a black man who served this country for 30 years. i remember when i learned what the us military did all over the world, our interventions. i was appalled, ashamed – was my own bowl full of blood? i came home and roared at my father. i made of the dining room table a tense wood, and perhaps it has stayed that way, as i have only learned more and more, and my father has not traveled back in time yet to make different choices.
and i love my father, even when i consider what his work was. i loved the child my father had been, what he had survived. i loved what drove him – it was me, it was us. i see this in you, a willingness to engage the horrific because you have daughters, and the world must change. loving one’s children is not promised, but my father did, and he does, no matter what we say to him as we try to make his life fit into our mercurial values.
loving my father prepared me for you, how you have all that lift in your voice. even when your hands are bloody you say, we are doing our best! even when the white man has earned the left hook you say, what’s for dinner?
or you dance.
i told you years ago in another message to the world that i had no misconceptions about the job you were taking on. and now it is done, for better or worse. imperfectly, gracefully, violently, patiently, you have done it.
we can say you have been the president.
we can say you have survived the presidency.
i hope you don’t know what it means to us, that you have survived, or at least that you don’t think of it much.
i feel that, even though you, even though you – ah i told myself i wouldn’t speak here of policies – between you and i there is all this data, like a wall. i cannot see how you could have, you cannot tell me anything at all to convince me otherwise, and my ideas have yet to be tested at scale.
i will say only that you have disappointed me. so many times. this is just the truth, even last night i was crying about the limitations of your legacy, i was lighting a candle for leonard peltier and other prisoners who cannot run from the next administration.
ah! what is it like to hold such specific freedom in your hands and only give it to some?
what is it like to try and end wars, or to have put on god’s shoes and meted out death?
what is like to stay in so many concurrent abusive relationships, to be both abuser and abused?
what is it like to come up against the edges of what you can do? and even the edges of what you can say about what you can do?
and how, tonight, do you prepare for a ceremony to hand your legacy to the villain, the man who has purposefully desecrated your existence at every opportunity?
i don’t understand.
i don’t even want to understand.
and here we can finally get to the thank you i promised long ago, in the title of this very poem, or whatever this is.
thank you for being willing to climb into the mouth of the lion, past the great sharp white teeth and the acidic tongue, up through the steam and mucus, up into the predator brain. willing to see the mechanizations of war, the territorial, jealous madness of our wild young armed beast of a nation, and to sit there, trying to reason.
thank you for reading books, listening to music, hosting concerts and parties and readings, and eating five almonds a night. whispering to her while the water is running, that it is too much, and then turning off the spigot and returning to the spotlight. smiling for the selfies, and the official photos, and the exhausting and ridiculous rituals.
thank you for michelle, and malia, and sasha. it has been so nourishing to watch them shine and grow.
and more than all that, thank you for chasing children through those halls – black children, free children, all the children.
and thank you for bringing artists into that house – black artists, relevant artists…as if you meant it.
so many of the people i most respect spent time in that house, conjuring compelling futures together, with and without you. i think no matter what comes next they have left some good witchcraft, some buried seeds of an impossible nation that continues to breath in, and breath out.
thank you for not walking away, for standing at the crux of knives, for continuing to smile as everything turned gray.
i told other people, which is sometimes how i say my love, but i will say it here as well. i love you more than any radical should ever love a president. you and your whole family. even with my analysis of all the things.
i am so deeply grateful to have had this experience, to have had a black/multiracial/elegant/facilitative/thoughtful/reasonable person/family in the emperor’s chair. it’s still empire, and i am still post-imperialist.
and tonight i light candles for what you did do. for who you were 8 years ago, and who you have become.