I knew he was black
before I ever saw him at the IHop
with his white buddies.
I knew, not from some jargon
or accent formed in the heat of the Delta
but from his deep, resonant, soul laugh—
survivor of water, manacles and whips.
They sat assessing teams, statistics
and the possibility of season championships
the way their grandfathers once discussed
rain, tillage and the future price of cotton by the ton
while standing on the Court House lawn.
Somewhere in the years between,
men stopped saying, “Suh” and “Boy”
and call each other
Dressed in chinos and polo shirts,
the four men rise from the table,
get into their SUVs and drive home
to still-separate cities.