Clint Margave

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In my parents’ house, everything was white.

At birthdays, we ate white cake with white
frosting on white paper plates.
At Christmas, my father strung white lights
on the white flocked tree, 
while my mother played Bing Crosby
on an antique white stereo.

The mailbox was as white
as the envelopes inside it.
The telephone as white
as the relatives who called us on it.

There was white carpet in all the bedrooms.
A white couch no one could sit on. 
A white piano no one could play.
There was a white television
with shows about the superficial
lives of white rich people.
White chairs at the dinner table.
White napkins on white laps.
White dishes on white placemats.

The kitchen countertop was white
like no meal had ever been prepared on it.
The microwave was white like nothing frozen
had ever been defrosted in it. 
The refrigerator, like no perishable item
had ever been kept inside of it.

Every windowsill. 
Every cabinet door.
Every bar of soap. 
Even the dog was white.

My father smoked white cigarettes with
white filters. My mother leased a white
Mercedes with a white interior.
The white hangers in the closet held white
designer purses, white fur coats, white
brand-named blouses and suits,
all financed on a white credit card
that would forever put them in the red.

No wonder they freaked out 
when at fourteen, I dyed my hair black,
wore black nail polish and thick
black eyeliner to school where
white kids called me “faggot” 
and threatened to kick my ass,
where fascist skinhead bullies
poured brown syrupy Cokes down my back
in midday lunchtime ceremonies,
and my parents’ only concern was
what the neighbors would think,
their only advice that I should
change the way I looked.

No wonder, to this day,
I still refuse to buy any other color,
from my car to my clothes to the pens I write with,
even though I escaped that neighborhood years ago,
their house long sold to someone else,
and the only thing white anymore
is my mother’s hair, my father’s bones
set in a white wall six years now,
encased in a black box.


Clint Margrave is the author of The Early Death of Men, a collection of poems published by NYQ Books. His work has also appeared in The New York Quarterly, Rattle, Cimarron Review, Verse Daily, and Ambit (UK), among others. His second full-length collection of poems, Salute the Wreckage, is forthcoming from NYQ Books.