At the Portrait Museum in the Absence of Colors
I walked into a room filled with black and white nooses on the wall
some silhouetted against the grainy whiteness
some so clear you could see the fibers of the weave
from the white flash of the camera
all hung steps away from the portrait of our previous First Lady.
I weaved between the teens taking selfies and stared at the photographs
not a lament, but how a man holds his dog’s head in feces as punishment.
I am, after all, a descendant of a clansman.
I ran my finger along the movie-theatre rope as I passed by Mrs. Obama.
I have always been drawn to strong women who have emerged
from dark cellars with dirt floors and wear their silk ebony with power
to those battered black who manage to get back up
especially those cocked with a bat who pry their children from drug houses.
I stood beneath her, the whiteness of her gown gleams off the canvas
contrasting her dark skin
—the inner-portrait of pulling the knot loose.
She sits like the calm before the storm
eyes casted out like she already knows the end to our story
of so much red, a splash of blue, and always predominately white.
by Kara J. Valore
Editor’s Note: This poem’s consummate layering of imagery and meaning invites the reader to consider both the visual and historical purpose of museums, and this exhibit’s intention in particular.