A First Reading

I was handed a book today,
It was awkward.
The cover, half black, half white
Included the word, “Negro,” in the title.

Me, being white didn’t know
How to take the word,
Given that the man who brought me the book
Is African American.

We talked about the Steelers choking,
The loss of money wagered on the losers,
And when the book was due.
Later, he would send me two more books.

I dove into Contemporary Poets of the Negro (1921)
Unsure of what I was looking for,
But then I realized that the book spoke clearly,
White people, back then, needed to wake up.

I couldn’t agree more, only with a tenor struck
In our present, for little has changed
In the way the cultures don’t exist together,
A token acceptance based on guilt rather than acceptance.

Perhaps Kerlin’s words,
“For both races it augurs ill,” capture the problem
With the delicate existence of race relations no matter the cultures,
And its time everyone fixed things, before all our cores are hollowed out.

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