One With Others [It was hotter then]

It was hotter then. It was darker. No sir, it was whiter. Just pick up a paper.

You would never suspect 66% of the population was invisible. You would

never even suspect any of its people were nonwhite until an elusive Negro was

arrested in Chicago or the schedule for the annual Negro Fair was published or 

a popular Negro social studies teacher was fired for an insubordinate letter to

the superintendent and a spontaneous rebellion sprang up in a Negro classroom

in the form of flying chairs and raggedy books and a pop bottle thrown at a light

fixture, and then, the lists of long long suffered degradations backed up and


       Parades without permits/ Boycotted stores

       Funeral home turned into a Freedom Center

       Kids arrested en masse and put in a swimming pool

       V died during Operation Enduring Freedom

       A bottle a day, she got annihilated/ Two packs a day

       Always preoccupied with last things/ Always a touch eschatological

       Always took a little tabula rasa with her caffeine

       When I asked the neighbor if she knew the woman who lived there in 1969/

       Oh yes she said/ She knew her

       She didn't trust me and I didn't trust her

       I don't blame her though/ Everything

       was so confusing/ She stayed to herself

       She was overwhelmed/ That poor woman...

       She was right/ We were wrong


       They've got souls/ Just like you and me


       The marchers are approaching the town of Hazen

       where not so long ago an earth scraper turned up

       a mastodon skull and a tusk on the military road

       In Big Tree: People are turning in

       Only sure thing were the prices:

       Grown-ups know the cost of a head of lettuce,

       a fryer, a package of thighs; a $500 bag of seed

       covers about 5 acres; it takes 20 square feet of cotton

       for a medium-size blouse; where nothing is planted,

       nothing much grows. The dirt is hard-packed.

       The trees were gone by the first war. The first to go,

       the most marvelous one, the red cypress,

       made beautiful instruments. The fields,

       not gone, but empty. Cotton turned to soybeans.

       Mussels from the river turned to salvage.

       Fishing for tires on the silted-up water.

       Some are left digging an old bur out of their foot.

       Some go up/ Some go down [Big Tree church sign]

       A race-free conversation hard to have back then.

       Back then, the hotdog wagon doubled as a brothel.

       Come again.

       DEAR ABBY,

       I am 11 years old but I know all the facts of life because I live in a dirty

neighborhood. My problem is that in our family we get pregnate quick. My

sister got pregnate when she was 16 just by sitting next to a boy in church. Can

this be?


       No, somebody must have moved.


       People study the dingy chenille clouds for a sign.

       People did what they have done.

       A town, a time, and a woman who lived there.

       And left undone what they ought not to have did.

From One With Others by C. D. Wright. Copyright © 2011 by C. D. Wright. Published by Copper Canyon Press. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.