AMERICAN RACE SONG
Something’s wrong with your soul
if it won’t swoon when Sam Cooke sings,
It’s been too hard livin‘, but I’m afraid...
And when I hear it I hope you think
of dogs and how they don’t see shades
and if for this they are beloved
of those who garland lampposts
that line the blood procession’s route.
And sometimes I hope you pray to be
delivered to the quiet, shining city
on those bay hills alight
with mandalas and tiger moms
of pedestaled boys and girls
whom you might believe to be
our bulwark in the stand
against the eastern tide.
The side your skin is on depends
upon the day your papa had
when you were ten, his words
for the colors who cut him off
and left you seven and three score years
to think of them as them
Who’d knock you on your knees
as soon as take your hand.
You will have to last a long time
to drink the breath and sweat
of a love that tastes like dust
of a planet in the sky you see
those nights when you can leave
the little tent by the river
where you’ve gone from time to know
how the natives spoke the night before
they sent their painted parties out
to greet dots on the horizon
and distant columns of smoke.
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