Claudia Rankine


My grandmother is in a nursing home. It’s not bad.
It doesn’t smell like pee. It doesn’t smell like
anything. When I go to see her, as I walk through
the hall past the common room and the nurse’s
station, old person after old person puts out her
hand to me. Steven, one says. Ann, another calls.
It’s like being in a third-world country but instead
of food or money you are what is wanted, your
company. In third-world countries I have felt
overwhelmingly American, calcium rich, privileged
and white. Here, I feel young, lucky and sad.

Sad is one of those words that has given up its life
for our country, it’s been a martyr for the American
dream, it’s been neutralized, co-opted by our
culture to suggest a tinge of discomfort that lasts
the time it takes for this and then for that to
happen, the time it takes to change a channel. But
sadness is real because once it meant something
real. It meant dignified, grave; it meant trustworthy;
it meant exceptionally bad, deplorable, shameful; it
meant massive, weighty, forming a compact body;
it meant falling heavily; and it meant of a color:
dark. It meant dark in color, to darken. It meant
me. I felt sad.

On the bus two women argue...
A friend tells me this story...
When I remember this story...
My grandmother tells me...

© 2005 Electronic Poetry Review