Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Way It Was

Don't know exactly what inspired this. I wrote it yesterday. Seems like my mind is never far from thinking about injustice.

The Way It Was

It took five hours in those days
when Ike was president.
New Orleans to Mama Dear’s house
in Vicksburg, Mississippi,
all of us
five, six, or seven,
depending on what year
measured Mom’s fertility,
stuffed in a station wagon.
No air conditioning,
smoke from Dad’s Camels
(still in my nostrils).
Before Interstates
before pollution of the oyster beds
and the designated hitter.
No Wendy along the way.
US 190 over Chef Menteur and the Rigolets
to old US 51
past the Pearl River
where a lynching victim
had been tossed
a few months back,
Dad said, flatly,
like a weather report on WWL.

Through Poplarville, McComb, Hazlehurst, Brookhaven
all the way up to Jackson:
then east to Vicksburg
over wondrous hills
where you couldn’t see what was coming
till you reached the top.

Lula, Mama Dear’s black cook,
had late lunch ready.
Seemed like she was always there,
and everything was cooked,
and cleaned, and straight, and correct.
And from the back yard
high on that hill on Drummond street,
or anywhere really,
you could look down
into the hollows
where the little black cities were
under their perpetual pall of smoke.

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