Thursday, March 27, 2014

March 27, 2014 We Write Poems #206/ My Childhood

My Childhood
In memory it seems
Such a pleasant summer day
A path without much danger
The church we attended
Seemed so normal
There are some events which
Lie on top of my pile of memories

One time at the school
Probably not the first 
Probably not the last
The school put on
A ‘blackface’ performance
I remember the students singing
“Mammy” made famous by Al Jolson
Who preformed on television in ‘blackface’
Steven Foster’s “The Swanny River”
Children singing about the old folks at home
The doors of the school auditorium
Open to the hot summer night
The sounds of the songs floated out
To join the stars that sparkled
Down on our little town

Only recently I noticed the ‘blackface’
Our schools were segregated then
It seemed perfectly normal that
The black children had to get up early
Before the sun came up
To be were bused to the next town
The black children couldn’t drink from the
Public fountains
Couldn’t sit at the counter at the drugstore
Didn't attend our church
I wonder did the adults think of this
Or were they mostly as innocent at the children…
Or as guilty
What did the black citizens of our town think
I didn't know any black people
Didn't see them, they lived on the otherside of town
A mystery unexplained
I don't think I really thought about it until the '60s

During that performance a man snuck behind the curtain
On the stage and exposed himself to a little girl
Suzy who went to my church
The whole town was up in arms
All the men ran out into the night looking for him
(I imagine a scene from 'Frankenstine' the villagers
Running into the night with torches
And pitchforks)
It was said, he was a man passing through
Our town….

It always seemed a strange happening to me
I imagined the man driving through our town
Saw the lights and heard the music
And just stopped at the school performance
To go behind the curtain to expose himself
To an little girl…
Then ran away to jump in his car and speed away
Who was that man
Where did he come from
What would make him want to do such a thing
There were probably a lot of things I didn't understand


Anonymous said...

Such fractured remembrances, like looking through a kaleidoscope, colors and shapes that don't make a comprehensible picture but a pretty pattern nonetheless.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Oh my goodness, this starts off as such a benign childhood remembrance, and then exposes not just segregation but the exposure incident - the likelihood of that being just a random person passing thru seems like something the town told themselves to feel safe and not like it was someone in their midst. The innocence of the children....the black face have captured that time just before the civil rights movement when all of that just felt "normal" - and you did it so well I could see it all.

ms pie said...

it appears we are all in a wonderful bubble in our childhood until it pops....

Raven's Wing Poetry said...

From innocence to tarnished innocence. I like the path this poem takes. This could easily become two poems, each with its own impact and moment. But I get go from not knowing to knowing, and understanding, that this world isn't all sparkles and fairy dust.

I was born after the Civil Rights Movement. I'm multiracial, but even in my childhood was a bit innocent, naive about the prejudice in our world. I was fourteen when I finally understood why some people stared at my parents and gave them dirty looks.

Stafford Ray said...

That whole 'blackface' business seems bizarre to we looking back, but I do remember when it was done, for reasons I do not understand, but accepted as OK. I guess if we all walked around nude like some folks do, the flashing of a pecker would be laughed at, as it deserves to be. Wouldn't that be something!