Deep Wilmington South, N.C. 2006
By Linda Kendall-Hagan
Northerners think the Civil War is over
Inside each Wilmington historical house, it’s 2008.
Outside the sauna thumps you into the 1930′s.
Hurricane snakes slither in hearts pumping ignorance in Wilmington
Termite ridden foundations of grandfathers’ mansions built when slaves’
Magnificent ebony free fingers
Woodworked elegant pillars and high balconies
Black skin taut over muscles enslaved in white fetters
Once slaves escaped to Wilmington to become freemen
Owned the bakery, the Wilmington Journal, the tannery too
Black lawyers walked Front Street by the river
Black families bought the mansions their granddaddies built
But Red Shirts couldn’t let that happen
Slaughter took the Wilmington black middle class
Sent the gentle women and children to hide in the swamps
And the men packing to the bottom of the Cape Fear River
Where their skeletons still wave from the cedar logs on the bottom
Wealthy good old boys and slave descendants
Live together in Wilmington
South of 7th St. good old boys eat off silver trays
North of 7th, black "boys" eat off broken dishes
No black boys wait on tables along the river.
It’s not allowed.
Racism is so deep here
No one knows what it is.
Michael Jordan worked at Whitey’s washing dishes,
So he could escape to fame but
Most "boys" still do heavy work.
In the forties, owner’s son and black field hand
Played tag in the cotton fields
Pushing each other down
Rollin’ in the dirt ditches body-over-body
Laughing muscle butt-to-butt, side-by-side,
Their sweaty hands dripping together in the bag
of white tufted fibrous balls still seedful.
They look far over the seeming hair-roller laden plants
Gaze at the old as-old-as-they-are vulture, King George, watching for a tender gecko
In the black water swamp that steams like an cleaner’s press
Heating their seeming young friendship forever
hearts beating together
Not knowing or thinking then white men
steam away the black dreams.
Now running the local college, the owner’s son, related to Robert E. Lee
Wears his crisp white shirt and clean Wright brothers sky-blue tie
And lives on all-white Wrightsville Beach
Meetings with the board, raising money to tear down 86 year-old black Miss Margaret’s house standing in the way of the new Engineering building.
He hides his sheet in his office closet;
Pleads to a private campus visitor, "How are we supposed to educate these people?"
Like Thurman, this President never learned Vernon Jordan could read.
The same black boy who rolled body-over-body with this President works all over town.
Yesterday, he was the boy who mudded the walls in Webster’s hundred-year-old dump on 6th street just to get some lunch and dinner.
Today, he lifts granite cornerstones into a wheel barrel as the sweat rolls down his dark bronze arms like water bugs scurrying under the sink. " So’s I kin break ‘em up with that sledge hammer and make small garden stones for boss Judy."
Tomorrow, no work…so he begs knocking at back doors with a story about needing money for his diabetes medicine.
Creeping fear here tar heel sluggish as deep brown honey.
When the crackers turned their backs, Jim whispered,
"They will hurt you if you try to help us. Crosses still burn here.
Klansmen, six men in a car, still beat black boys
This tar will seep deep in your soul; stick real thick to your heels;
It still suffocates the freedom we thought was already won."
Silent running tears running through my thoughts