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Monday, June 29, 2015


by George Held

So as I left the hygienist’s chair, white-clad Reesha
Said she’d taken a cruise to Turks and Bermuda
And, despite sunscreen, her tawny skin had turned
Black as the Nigerian queen Amina’s,

And I said, “Look at my sad white skin,”
Reddened and pebbled by actinic keratoses
(and smeared with cream to spare it from cancer)
And then I said what was on my mind about

Charleston, the city of Charles (whose name isn’t even
In the Bible), where white-racist hatred had burst
From a gun barrel and killed Pastor Pinckney
And his prayer-meeting sisters and brethren,

And I thought of all the black forbearance, the black
Sympathy, the black nobility that has steadied
A course that might have burst into whirlwind, war
And more deaths of worthy men and women,

And we two, Reesha and I, standing face to face
In the cramped space between high-tech dentistry
And the human race, the only race, clasped hands
And said to each other that in our own history

We at least are friends as I hoped that I was not
Just a superannuated white man
Deluded that he was without the taint
Of racial prejudice.

George Held, a regular contributor to The New Verse News, has a new book out from Poets Wear Prada, Culling: New & Selected Nature Poems.