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My Poem Is Black And White

In celebration of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King—


50th Anniversary, Aug. 28, 1963


An elderly woman nodded off to sleep

resting her head on my shoulder.

We were two strangers 

seated next to each other on the subway.

She was black and I white.

Not that that makes a difference.


With open arms I received her delicate ear.

Soft and warm is my shoulder.

We never spoke.  I never answered.

I took pains not to stir the entire ride.

Who could object?  

I could think of no finer purpose

than to gratify, that she should feel 

comforted and undisturbed and rested.  


We speak of race as if it means something

revered, of a respected immutable script.  

It is an act of mind 

beyond which the actor must rise.  

We speak of a Black world.  

And a White world.  

I can only see a Poem.

My poem is black and white.


My charge awoke suddenly upon hearing 

her destination and leaped for the exit,

without questioning our arrangement.

Each person’s secret adds to the treasure.

Each to their own sublime vitality,

the ardor that flows from within,

stretching outward, devoted to the divine,

like living a vital Mahalia Jackson song.


Stephen Cipot