Richard Peabody – "Race Poem in Three Parts" – A Poem

Race Poem in Three Parts

DC  1973

I was picking up trash at this small park
near Fort Totten and a tiny kid asked me
“Why you want to be white?”  Like I had a choice.

Philadelphia  2010

I’m at a reading and two 20-something
sistahs sit down beside me with an infant.
The little boy’s asleep until mom removes
his hat and booties. He wakes slowly, blinks,
looks around, and his eyes settle on me.

His scream is so loud—a blood curdling
turn out the lights the party’s over lamentation
I must have bumped my head off the ceiling
several times it was so unexpected.

I guess he didn’t see many white people
in his day-to-day existence.  He quiets down
eventually and before the reading is over
he’s sneaking peeks at me—exotic
specimen that I am—a DC poet in Philly.

Eventually he tries to pull up on my legs,
tries to maintain his  top-heavy balance.
“He likes your shirt,” the young mom says.
And he sticks his perfect tiny palm
out and grabs a hold of my blue and white
Hawaiian shirt.  His eyes glowing
in a eureka moment.

DC 1973

“I didn’t ask to be born this way,” I said.
Trying just as hard as this tiny kid
to understand differences.