Vox Populi: A Public Sphere for Politics and Poetry
I am on the Parkway with Fred, driving home
from Baltimore to DC. We’ve been to a packed
and riotous tribute to Ms. Lucille Clifton
at the public library. How we start talking
about history and my slave-owning forbears
and poetry I don’t remember, but that’s how it is
with Fred – we talk about these things.
I tell Fred I’ve been trying and failing
to find my way into the head
of my great grandmother or anyone else
who owned other people, trying to imagine.
Fred says, Well, maybe that’s not the poem.
Maybe this is the poem – you and I,
a Black man and a white woman,
crossing state lines below the Mason-Dixon Line.
The traffic stalls for late-night repairs
and we stop, between these two cities.
We are friends in a car.
And how could the Black men mutilated
and beaten and thrown in rivers
for just this – talking with a white woman,
crossing state lines, riding in a car –
not come and congregate with Fred and me
as we sit quietly a moment?
Construction lights flash in our eyes.
I wonder about the white women –
where are they in this story?
How could they bear
what had been done in their names?
Was there ever one who said no?
copyright 2015 Sarah Browning