Minstrel Show

In Cub Scouts in the 3rd grade on a stage
in a Methodist Church fellowship hall, (I swear
this happened; it did) they dressed us in blackface
and costumes and trotted us out. The assembled parents howled
mightily. And so on.

There are hard lives, but the capacity for joy yet exists.

We had a white MC. I was Brother Tambo.
A friend was Brother Bones. In between
was our extended family.

Have you ever let someone call you by
a different name and just tolerated it,
never correcting them?

(I often become a hyperdimensional being who
exists on the other side of quarks and strings. That night
I danced on the head of our guffawing Scoutmaster.
No one could see me.)


I see the effects of changes in my deep mind.
Corrections along the narrow path.

I should not think that penury will not exist, again,
or the auction block, or the concentration camp.

All the world’s languages come from the One language.

(Brother Tambo is a memory dropped into the abyss
of the unconscious non-integrated material, hitting
a floor there and scattering like quicksilver.)

You taught me that someone was “other, less than.”

In the church kitchen getting donuts, I saw my image
reflected on a big steel pot. I had used burnt cork.

I knew of the casual evil living in the heart, then,
the white middle-class heart, supposed repository
of the Holy Spirit.

I must concentrate on joy.

They tried to seed a mental cancer.
Its tumors are yet a possibility. And
there is the spidery notion
of guilt.

Bryan Merck has published in America, Birmingham Poetry Review, Eunoia Review, Hiram Poetry Review and others. He has fiction in Moon City Review and poetry forthcoming in Pleiades and others. He is a past winner of the Southern Literary Festival Poetry Prize and the Barksdale-Maynard Prizes in Fiction and Poetry. He lives in south Georgia with his wife Janice. He can be reached at bryanmerck@gmail.com.

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