First Taste of Intolerance

Written for:  Poets United Midweek Motif~Zero Tolerance

Various countries have laws for zero tolerance of: Using certain pesticides and chemicals, Bullying in the workplace, Dealing Narcotics, Driving while intoxicated, Belonging to gangs, Using weapons and drugs and violence in schools, and increasingly, Discriminating on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation and religion in many settings.

And by international agreement since 2012, all countries have zero-tolerance for genital mutilation:

Zero-Tolerance is controversial, and hard to enforce. This is not just because one law doesn’t fit everyone, but because laws are applied unevenly. In the USA, biased law enforcement has led to a racist “school to prison pipeline,” for example.
But when Zero Tolerance becomes a law, its job is to prevent future damage. Changing behaviors by enforcement now is meant to change attitudes over time. Does this work? Can it work? Should it work?

Take one tiny piece of this vast topic to illuminate in a new poem using your stories, images, experience, wishes, and potential solutions. Feel free to focus on FGM.


I had my first apartment–a basement, dark, small–a sense of freedom.
I was happy to provide my own light. My sister and friends visited,
once accompanied by a homeless cat. Of course I welcomed her.
Sounds ideal, right?

One weekend morning, an African/American friend from work,
and her sister came for the day. I heard a commotion outside
the front door. My landlady was standing in front of my friends,
demanding to know what they wanted. Livid and humiliated, I informed
my intolerant landlady that they were my friends. She said, “Oh, I
thought they were here to clean.” In later days my landlady would tell me
to make new friends.  That was my first brush with the cruelty
of intolerance. 

rosebush budded pink
in early part of Spring
lends her hue to daffodils

About purplepeninportland

I am a freelance poet, born and bred in Brooklyn, New York. I live with my husband, John, and two charming rescue dogs–Marion Miller and Murphy. We spent eight lovely years in Portland, OR, but are now back in New York. My goal is to create and share poetry with others who write, or simply enjoy reading poetry. I hope to touch a nerve in you, and feel your sparks as well.
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18 Responses to First Taste of Intolerance

  1. How absolutely horrible for you and your friends. At those times, I become ashamed of my white skin, skin of the oppressor of people of colour all over the world. It is hard to understand how someone like that landlady doesnt see another human being standing in front of her. Thanks for this, Sara. These stories need to be told.


  2. Kathleen Kittleman says:

    Thamks for this. So true it hurts


  3. susanstoo says:

    Good, good. The detail in this poem resonates–what a bad experience! Anf the haikuy is magical, hopeful. If one thing can rub off, maybe then so can another!


  4. memadtwo says:

    The world is full of stereotypes. How to teach people to look past them to the individual inside? (K)


  5. Marja says:

    A shocking experience I am always stunned when I hear stories like that and so difficult to deal with. Some people although more and more are so shortsighted and cruel. Thanks for your poem and beautiful Haiku


  6. Sumana Roy says:

    The incident was unfortunate. But people like the landlady exists everywhere in the world. In India, Most mothers-in-law are obsessed with ‘fair’ skinned brides. The skin color bias is a rage in India. Public figures are not even ashamed of endorsing fairness creams in a country where 90% people are brown skinned. What a shame!


  7. kim881 says:

    I’m sad to say that I have had similar experiences in the past. I love the blend of colours in the haiku, Sara.


  8. oldegg says:

    Sadly we learn prejudice from our parents or even at school. Luckily I live in Australia where races from all over the world live but there is still some prejudice that is slow to be eliminated…often against the original aboriginal people, despite most people being proud of our joint heritage.


  9. Anita says:

    Intolerance is a sad reality.
    Shocked that people can make such nasty & terrible comments.
    Zero Tolerance For Misinformation – Anita


Comments are closed.