VxPoem ID: 39036
Posted: October 2nd. 2010 12:23:55 PM
Halie - Circa 1960's
Age Group: Adult
The 60's were a different time:
and music to make parents scream.
The Deep South proved slow to change.
Poor stayed poor.
White stayed white.
Black stayed black,
and bigotry the norm.
Some people say Whites can't talk about Jim Crow Laws,
but I remember it.
I remember being thirsty
and wanting a drink so bad.
The weather turned hot that summer.
The kind of hot that makes your eyes burn.
We were someplace on a day trip.
and crowds stampeded the serving station's two water fountains.
Soggy pavement stuck to my shoes
as we snail paced forward,
one thirsty person at a time,
waiting in line for that blessed drink
of tepid rusty water.
Must have been twenty people in line
at that one fountain like a herd of parched cattle
all doing the hot-foot dance
while wiping sweat from foreheads.
No one approached the lonely fountain,
sitting there promising a refreshing drink,
until a Black man walk up to it.
I thought he was dead,
Blacks didn't cut in front of whites in those days.
But he took a long drink,
turned wiping his mouth as he walked away satisfied.
No one paid him any mind.
I looked around at the people standing in line
wondering why no one used the other fountain.
After a moment I tottered over and tippy toed
trying to get my drink.
I wasn't tall enough.
Mom grabbed my arm pulling me away saying:
“That one's for Colards! You can't use it.”
like I'd get a disease.
Believe it or not it happened,
just like that.
Black men and women alike
stepped out of our way
as we passed heading back for the car,
lowering their heads.
I wondered why.
None of it made sense.
my babysitter –
cooked for us.
She wiped my ass ,
changed my diapers,
doctored my boo-boos,
and comforted me when I cried.
She's Black –
if she can do all this,
why can't she drink from my fountain
and me hers?
Nope, made no sense at all.
Sweating in the back seat of my aunt's
big hot 1950's something car that day,
I saw black backs bent in labor
The day so hot
Yet there they were
doing the grunt work most whites refused to do.
A common sight that,
but thinking back it still makes no sense.
Yep, those were different times alright...
Author's Notes: Memories of my Mississippi childhood.
Author's Location: Greeneville, Tennessee
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