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.

“You know, I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t,” said Rory.

“Are you taken to idioms, now? Enjoy the steam,” said Allen.

Rory, Allen, and Mickey had been in the steam of James Blair Intermediate’s field house for quite awhile. The time had allowed Rory to craft a bevy of inventive thoughts on the meaning of all the things that had been happening to him.

“Come on, Allen, I stop a hostage situation. I help a leprechaun cheat in his version of the Olympics. I start a business only to give it away. I’ve worked fields with slaves and floated into the myths of the James River. You’ve got to admit that something is not right. When I think I’ve got a path and start to act on it, the path moves. When I do nothing, the fates drag me back onto the path. What’s going on?”

Allen: “It’s a mystery.”

Mickey: “It’s magic.”

The goat with the longest beard: “It’s divinity.”

Rory felt steam coming from his ears, “Now the goat is talking. Mr. Goat, haven’t you and your ensemble of field cleaning spiritual gnawers done enough to confuse the issue?”

“Naahaha,” said the goat, “Sorry, I couldn’t resist. You are trying to hurry this along. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither will your spiritual ascension.”

Mickey added, “Rory, you’ve got to take your time. The raft, the train, the Tuna, each was a message that you only sort of understand. The therapy cracked the door for you and the time at Carter’s Grove opened another dimension. As for now, you’re supposed to be relaxing.”

The music switched from the B-52s to Compost with busy jazz sounds, “I’ve been sitting’ here thinking trying to figure it out…”

“Figure it out?” mumbled Rory.

Mickey left the steam and came back with a large plate of mushrooms, “Have one, they’re great.”

“I don’t know, man, I don’t think I could handle another crazy trip,” said Rory.

“They aren’t those kind of mushroom. Besides, the Grateful Dead hasn’t been around in years. These are from some town in Pennsylvania. Portobellos.”

Rory passed on the mushrooms, but Allen ate two. Something happened and he stood dancing some weird dance that vaguely resembled David Byrne of the Talking Heads in the Once In a Lifetime video. He shimmied around the room shaking his head and chopping at his arm to the funk inspired jazz as the steam kept getting thicker. Droplets started falling from the ceiling so hard that it felt like it was raining. The bass echoed like thunder and when Allen fell to the ground with exhaustion, lightning crackled about the small room. The shock of electricity knocked Rory, Allen, and Mickey unconscious. After several minutes, the steam settled. The three lighting rods awoke to a reunion none could have imagined. Before them sat Shade, Ward, and the Hawk. The goats nodded to the esoteric trio and the mystery grew with a magic only divinity could conjure.