a woman passing as a pecan
a woman breaking open a pecan and
passing as its beige meat.
a woman passing as a fig tree’s bark
a woman passing as a fig
a woman passing as swamp water after rain,
and a man passing as a pinewood floor.
a man passing as a piano
his voice passing as honey-colored notes
floating above a crowd of masked revelers,
a man passing as cypress
a man passing as the prow of a ship run aground
a man passing as a bowl of clabber
or a bowl of molasses.
have you ever heard of such a country
where a woman passes for an oak banister
and a man passes for a leather-bound Bible,
or a book of law?
what you see here is a true phenomenon:
a man is disguised as a shoe in need of polishing
and a woman is burnished and heavy as a worn saddle.
little boys and girls are made of dried sassafras,
nutmeg, burnt flour, and clam shells.
hold one of our small, round babies in your hands
and see how it turns into a chicken’s egg before
“a foolish controversy over the color of the skin” takes its title from a quote by poet, journalist, and activist Rodolphe Desdunes, who wrote Our People and Our History: A Tribute to the Creole People of Color in Memory of the Great Men They Have Given Us and of the Good Works They Have Accomplished.
• • •
TO READ MORE, PICK UP A COPY OF VOL 52.1
IRÈNE P. MATHIEU is a pediatrician, writer, and public health researcher. She is the author of Grand Marronage (Switchback Books, 2019), orogeny (Trembling Pillow Press, 2017), and the galaxy of origins (dancing girl press, 2014). Her honors include Yemassee Journal ’s Poetry Prize, the Bob Kaufman Book Prize, and Editor’s Choice for the Gatewood Poetry Prize. Her poems have appeared in Narrative Magazine, Boston Review, Los Angeles Review, Callaloo, New Delta Review, Foundry, TriQuarterly, and elsewhere. Irène is a poetry Book Reviewer for Muzzle Magazine and Editor for the Journal of General Internal Medicine’s humanities section. A Fulbright and Callaloo fellow, she holds a B A in international relations from the College of William & Mary and an M D from Vanderbilt University.