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Friday, March 01, 2019


by Susana H. Case

I tried to explain the origins of blackface
to my bewildered Italian tutor,
who grew up in Perugia
and doesn’t read American
newspapers. I, too, had never seen blackface, 
growing up, but that was in New York City,
where burnt cork or grease 
would not have been thought funny, I hope.
Vaudeville, I think . . . I hesitated, 
or the earlier minstrel shows.

I was bewildered too. We shook our heads,
thinking of Italian companies 
that recently had to pull 
a Gucci balaclava sweater and Prada 
charms for purses,
blackface imagery on luxury.
Fat red lips on a black background
startled passersby on the East Side,
including me, who would never 
again enter their stores, both companies 
not having understood America, 
or having understood it too well.

Susana H. Case is the author of six books of poetry, most recently the erasure book, Erasure, Syria (Recto y Verso Editions, 2018). Her most recent book of traditional poetry, Drugstore Blue, was published in 2017. She is also the author of four chapbooks, two of which won poetry prizes. Her first collection, The Scottish Café, from Slapering Hol Press, was re-released in a dual-language English-Polish version, Kawiarnia Szkocka by Opole University Press in Poland. Her work has appeared in CalyxThe Cortland ReviewPortland ReviewPotomac ReviewRattleRHINO and many other journals.