Little Girl Talk
my grampaw was a smooth black, way back then
before black discovered beautiful he was pretty.
he had pearlywhite teeth and a big moustache.
he useta skinny-out to the edge with a black-wax stick. on Sunday
he would pindown in his darkblue suit, wideblue tie.
white-stiff shirt, and hip-on down to the presbyterian church where he argued
over how to spend white folk’s mission money.
on weekdays: overalls. he worked in a factory.
until some white boss talked down to him. then he’d quit.
to another factory. talk union talk to negroes. get
laid off. on the way home buy me a big box of oran
kause i kalled iron ‘i-roan’.
my grampaw was all the kings i wanted to know. when
i was six. my grampaw was smart. didn’t
go to college. said white folks wouldn’t let’im.
but he worked algebra and trig and read gladstone’s law.
and science books. he used to tell us kids
there wasn’t no heaven.
my grampaw said i was the sugar in his coffee. yes indeed.
i remember my grampaw,
the day the siren screamed into our street ballgame
and stopped at our house, we kids, eight of us, scattered
into an uneven line across the street. we watched two
big, redneck, white men in white uniforms stuff my
pretty grampaw into something called a straitjacket,
crowd him into the back of their looney wagon, jump
into the front themselves and shriek-off into the distance.
my grammaw stood perfectly still. her proud eyes
looked deep and sore and hollow. my mother, unmoving, cried softly.
i, girl-boy-tom-tree-climber of 10, tried
not to feel anything. the tears that didn’t come swelled
to a tight fist in my chest
big, brave, girlboy me
shove the weight of my ten years
onto two flat feet,
strolled to the middle of the street
and yelled as loud as i could,
“throw the ball, shity!”
. The game was on.
Delores S. Williams
From The Oxford Anthology of African-American Poetry.
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