The year Mother arrived on Ellis Island, the heavyweight fighter,
Jack Johnson, began serving a one-year sentence in Leavenworth
for violating the Mann Act, but everybody knew
Jack was doing time for loving a whole lot of white women
and each and every one of them every which-way.
Mother, fresh from hibiscus and the Caribbean Sea,
knew nothing of it; didn’t know that some who thought
if you’re light, well alright, would look at her and wonder
is she a white girl…?
I never asked about color when I could have; never thought of
the past as prologue because in the Civil Rights-free-sex-60s,
black was a beauty
and I didn’t want to think about the pale man who had
bedded my Grannie; that my own Mother was grey pearl,
chipped tooth, the other white meat…