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Friday, February 3, 2012

The Greenwood family tree, emblematic of a growing number of American bloodlines, has roots on many continents.

Thomas Sayers Ellis has said that his rhythmically-driven poetry is about destroying hierarchies. As Ellis explains, "I don't think the end of the word is more important than the beginning of the word. I don't think the end of the line is more important than the beginning of the line."
— Poetry Foundation
By Thomas Sayers Ellis
Or Oreo, orworse. Or ordinary.Or your choice
of category
or any colorother than Coloredor Colored Only.
Or "Of Color"
or theory or discourseor oral territory.Oregon or Georgia
or Florida Zora
or born pooror Corporate. Or Moor.Or a Noir Orpheus
or Senghor
or a horrendousand tore-up journey.Or performance. Or allegory's armor
of ignorant comfort
or reform or a sore chorus.Or Electoral Corruptionor important ports
of Yoruba or worry
or fear of . . .of terror or border.Or all organized

Times Selection Excerpt

Susan Saulny begins her piece, "In Strangers' Glances at Family, Tensions Linger," like this:
"How come she's so white and you're so dark?"
The question tore through Heather Greenwood as she was about to check out at a store here one afternoon this summer. Her brown hands were pushing the shopping cart that held her babbling toddler, Noelle, all platinum curls, fair skin and ice-blue eyes.
The woman behind Mrs. Greenwood, who was white, asked once she realized, by the way they were talking, that they were mother and child. "It's just not possible," she charged indignantly. "You're so…dark!"
It was not the first time someone had demanded an explanation from Mrs. Greenwood about her biological daughter, but it was among the more aggressive. Shaken almost to tears, she wanted to flee, to shield her little one from this kind of talk. But after quickly paying the cashier, she managed a reply. "How come?" she said. "Because that's the way God made us."
The Greenwood family tree, emblematic of a growing number of American bloodlines, has roots on many continents. Its mix of races — by marriage, adoption and other close relationships — can be challenging to track, sometimes confusing even for the family itself.
For starters: Mrs. Greenwood, 37, is the daughter of a black father and a white mother. She was adopted into a white family as a child. Mrs. Greenwood married a white man with whom she has two daughters. Her son from a previous relationship is half Costa Rican. She also has a half brother who is white, and siblings in her adoptive family who are biracial, among a host of other close relatives — one from as far away as South Korea.

Learn more about our collaboration with the Poetry Foundation and find ideas for using any week's pairing for teaching and learning.

Thomas Sayers Ellis's "Or," is from Poetry (October 2006).

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