2012: Barry North – The Truth

Poem from the 2012 issue.

By Barry North

I could have been one
of those white
nondescript faces
in that 1930’s mob
in downtown New Orleans,
my father told me about,
who watched in silence
as some sort of labor dispute
unfolded in the warehouse district—
watched, like extras on a movie set,
a black man fleeing for his life
as a white man in the crowd sucker-punched him
against the momentum of his full gallop,
knocking out all of his teeth
and crushing his jaw.
Instead, I will trade
a mob for a circle
and listen in silence,
like a bit player selling
his own life short,
as a white firefighter
describes coming upon an horrific scene:
a car wreck in which all
the black occupants were ejected.
“There were bodies everywhere,
on the sidewalk,
in the grass,
even one stuck into the side
of an apartment building.
I swear, it looked
like it had been
raining niggers,” he concludes,
to a spattering of chuckles,
and my acquiescent silence.

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