Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


Sherbet

The problem here is that
This isn’t pretty, the
Sort of thing that

Can easily be dealt with
With words. After
All it’s

A horror story to sit,
A black man with
A white wife in

The middle of a hot
Sunday afternoon in
The Jefferson Hotel in

Richmond, Va., and wait
Like a criminal for service
From a young white waitress

Who has decided that
This looks like something
She doesn’t want

To be a part of. What poetry
Could describe the
Perfect angle of

This woman’s back as
She walks, just so,
Mapping the room off

Like the end of a
Border dispute, which
Metaphor could turn

The room more perfectly
Into a group of
Islands? And when

The manager finally
Arrives, what language
Do I use

To translate the nervous
Eye motions, the yawning
Afternoon silence, the

Prayer beneath
His simple inquiries,
The sherbet which

He then brings to the table personally,
Just to be certain
The doubt

Stays on our side
Of the fence? What do
We call the rich,

Sweet taste of
Frozen oranges in
This context? What do

We call a weight that
Doesn’t fingerprint,
Won’t shift,

And can’t explode?

Credit


From The Gathering of My Name (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1991). Copyright © 1991 by Cornelius Eady. Used with the permission of Carnegie Mellon University Press.

Author


Cornelius Eady

Born in 1954, in Rochester, New York, Cornelius Eady is the co-founder of Cave Canem, a nonprofit organization serving black poets

Date Published: 2017-11-06

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/sherbet