Poetry

March 7, 2019 Poetry , POETRY / FICTION

flickr photo

 

By

Anne Whitehouse

 

 

 

Aftermath At The Conference

 

 

Violence in the streets, and violence in his home.

In the sixties, Jonah, Sr. took what he got as a black man

in Birmingham and gave it to his wife and son.

Drinking, beatings, fear and horror

set loose like tumbleweeds in the desert.

Dread and desperation ate into the heart

of Jonah, Jr., a sensitive boy with a cerebral bent.

When the pretty girl he shyly flirted with

was murdered in the Baptist church bombing,

Jonah, Jr. was terrified he was done for.

 

But his studies salvaged him.

The rigor and beauty of mathematics

were balm to his heart and spur to his mind.

His Lutheran pastor had a passion for justice.

The taunts of the whites who threw bottles

at them when they integrated the cinema

echoed in the recesses of his memory

long after he earned his Ph.D. in fixed point theory,

whereby a repeating process generates an outcome,

which is the starting point of the next iteration.

 

The lesson being that one can begin somewhere

and end somewhere else, far away.

Jonah, Jr. became a college professor

in North Carolina, married late in life,

had a son when other men have grandsons.

Slender, diffident, soft-spoken,

he is a very different father from his father,

happier when unnoticed, nervous

in his words and actions, accustomed

to let others speak for him.

 

He let the celebrity guest commandeer him

at the conference. Instead of attending the sessions

where we asked hard racial questions,

he squired her to soul food restaurants,

and we ate sandwiches. She was demanding,

he was compliant, and I was indignant,

until I realized he was where he wanted to be.

He had intended to participate,

but in the end, revisiting the past

was just too painful.

 

 

 

 

 

Mother And Daughter

 

 

Growing up in the South,

she never felt she fit in,

being way too serious

and none too popular.

She came north to be educated,

and, leaning to the law,

clerked for a federal judge

and joined the Justice Department.

 

Reared among D.C. sophisticates,

her daughter returned to the South.

All that the mother had fled,

her daughter embraced—

football and frat parties,

good old boys and good-natured girls.

Prettier than her mother

and not so serious,

she countered blandness

with refinement

and reconciled her mother

with what she had rejected

and what had rejected her.

 

 

 

 

 

Anne Whitehouse

Anne Whitehouse is the author of six poetry collections, including The Refrain(2012) and Meteor Shower(2016) from Dos Madres Press. Her novel, Fall Love, is available in Spanish as Amigos y amantes. Her essays, “Poe vs. Himself,” and “Poe and Chivers,” appeared in New England Review andRascal Journal. You can listen to her lecture, “Longfellow, Poe, and the Little Longfellow War” here.

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