where Jim Crow went

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

“Maaan!”


Dressed in chinos and polo shirts,

the four men rise from the table,

get into their SUVs and drive home

to still-separate cities.


Janet Taliaferro



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