“On the Question of Race” Poetry Writing

A foray into poetry and an update on what I’ve been up to!


School is back in full swing, along with my own lovely ‘adult school’ (Read: Grad School), so time for writing and blogging has been shrunk, but not gone. I’m still planning on doing NaNoWriMo2017, and I’m looking forward to it. We’ll see how it goes!

Today I have something different for you. In my most recent graduate class, a course on the Foundations of Social Justice Teaching, we had an incredibly interesting opportunity to hear poetry by Michelle Banks – an actress, poet, and native Washingtonian. The poem was entitled “On the Question of Race“, and after hearing, we were asked to write our own. The only ‘requirement’ is that you open with the same stanza and close with the same stanza (substituting white for your own selection).

I did. I leave it for you to read and enjoy, or simply as inspiration to make your own. Let me know what you think.


By Daniel Ottalini

Written in the form of Michelle Banks ‘On the Question of Race”


They ask me to write down my race.

and I think and think very seriously

and consider writing down the truth

and have my answer read


I have a young man in my mind

Oldest of his family

Riding the seas to foreign shores

Greeted by a

Bronze-green woman

And a name-changing clerk


Inside this body

There lies the soul

Of a stone cutter

Carving the mountains of old




Stone and calloused hands

He smiles and gives his paycheck to his sons

For the voyage ahead.


Inside this body there lives

The heart of a back country doctor

Who joint the army for a PhD

His memories flow within me

World War II

Prisoners of War

His first children and grandchildren


Inside me flows the

coldest of Appalachian

mountain streams

and the hottest dust

of California’s deserts

The gentle farms of Iowa

And the dark fastnesses of

Italian mountains

The steel of ancient legions

And the singsong lilt

of Celtic tribes.


I have within me

The anxious churn of late-night news

The earthy smell of early morning soccer fields







I have the joys

of a generation of doctors

passed to a generation

of teachers


But I stop…

And simply write down ‘white’.

Author: Daniel Ottalini

Author of the Award-Winning Steam Empire Chronicles Series

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