Claudia Rankine's Citizen: An American Lyric is unforgettable, unsettling, and unapologetic. It answers questions of what it means to be a person of color in America—she presents quite clearly what traumas, including those fatal moments where in a situation things occurred specifically because of racial aggression.
It's heartbreaking. It's honest. It's brutal.
Rankine's prose poems collectively show from a smaller personal scale, to national headlines, to celebrity athletic stages—there's a shared experience that exists as a person of color.
On Hurricane Katrina, she writes:
He said, I don't know what the water wanted. It wanted to
show you no one would come.
He said, I don't know what the water wanted. As if then
and now were not the same moment.
From her poem "Making Room," Rankine recounts her experiences in public transit, her awareness to the way men of color are mistreated. It's this level of awareness, that beyond being a black woman, there are the difficulties of being a black man that she pens so beautifully.
You sit next to the man on the train, bus, in the plane, wait-
ing room, anywhere he could be forsaken. You put your
body there in proximity to, adjacent to, alongside within.
There's a solidarity in her understanding. The experiences outlined in these prose poems are infuriating and collectively make me wonder, how does one deal with this? Perhaps, as the final lines suggest, not as matches, but rather as opportunity for lessons.