Sixty years after, I can see their smiles,
White with Negro teeth, and big with good,
When one or the other brought my father’s Cadillac out
For us at the Gatesworth Garage.
RG and MC were the godhead,
The older brothers I dreamed I had.
I didn’t notice they were colored,
Because older boys capable of being kind
To a younger boy are God.
It is absolutely odd
To be able to be with God.
I can almost see their faces, but can’t quite.
I remember how blazingly graceful they were,
And that they offered to get me a girl so I could meet God.
I have an early memory of a black chauffeur,
Out of his livery,
Hosing down a long black Packard sedan, sobbing.
Did it happen? It took place
In Portland Place.
I remember the pink-soled gum boots
That went with the fellow’s very pink gums
And very white teeth, while he washed
The Packard’s whitewalls white
And let them dry, sobbing,
Painting on liquid white with an applicator afterward.
Later that afternoon he resumed his chauffeur costume,
A darky clad in black under the staring sun.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt had died.
On the other hand, Ronny Banks was light-skinned.
He worked as a carhop at Medart’s drive-in.
He was well-spoken, gently friendly.
He was giving a party, but I didn’t go.
I actually drove there, but something told me no.
I suddenly thought he was probably a homo.
I drank my face off, age fifteen.
I hit the bars
In the colored section to hear jazz.
I raved around the city in my father’s cars,
A straight razor who, wherever he kissed, left scars.
I was violently heterosexual and bad.
I used every bit of energy I had.
Where, I wonder, is Ronny Banks now?
I remember a young man, whose name I have forgotten,
Who was exceedingly neat,
Always wearing a white shirt,
Always standing there jet-black in our living room.
How had this been allowed to happen?
Who doesn’t hate a goody-goody young Christian?
My father and uncle underwrote the boy’s education.
He was the orphaned son of a minister.
He sang in the church choir.
He was exemplary, an exemplar.
But justice was far away, very far.
Justice was really an ashtray to display
The lynched carcass of a stubbed-out cigar,
Part brown, part black, part stink, part ash.
When I was a little boy,
My father had beautiful manners,
A perfectly haughty gentleman,
Impeccable with everyone.
In labor relations with the various unions,
For example, he apparently had no peer.
It was not so much that he was generous,
I gather, but rather that he was fair.
So it was a jolt, a jolt of joy,
To hear him cut the shit
And call a black man Boy.
The white-haired old Negro was a shoeshine boy.
One of the sovereign experiences of my life was my joy
Hearing my father in a fury call the man Boy.
Ronny Banks, faggot prince, where are you now?
RG and MC, are you already under headstones
That will finally reveal your full
Names, whatever they were?
RG, the younger brother, was my hero who was my friend.
I remember our playing
Catch in the rain for hours on a rainy weekend.
It is a question
Of when, not a question of whether,
The glory of the Lord shall be revealed
And all flesh shall cease together.
A black woman came up to my father.
All the colored people in this city know who you are.
God sent you to us. Thank God for your daddy, boy.