In the Eighties We Did the Wop

If you end your crusades for the great race,  

then I will end my reenactments of flying, 

and if you lean down to smell a painted trillium, 

then I will cast a closer eye on those amber waves,  

and if you stop killing black children,  

then I will turn my drums to the sea and away from  

your wounded mountains. Who mothered your love of death? 

Here is a heart-shaped stone to rub when you feel fear rising; 

give me anything, an empty can of Pabst, a plastic souvenir, a t-shirt from Daytona.  

Here is a first edition: The Complete Poems of Lucille Clifton.  

Give me an ancient grove and a conversation by a creek, charms  

to salve my griefs, something that says you are human, 

and I will give you the laughter in my brain and the tranquil eyes of my uncles.  

Show me your grin in the middle of winter. 

In the eighties we did the wop; you, too, have your dances.  

It is like stealing light from a flash in the sky. I promise:  

no one is blaming you. No one is trying to replace you. 

It’s just that you are carrying a tainted clock calling it European History

standing in khakis, eyes frightened like a mess of beetles. 

Copyright © 2020 by Major Jackson. Originally published with the Shelter in Poems initiative on