For Saturday September 28Th 2013 “Real Toads” poetry prompt stemming from the very popular Book “The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd. I have not read the book. But I knew immediately what had inspired me to write. I find myself in this position more often that not. A prompt is coming, and before I see it my inspiration comes. That often means that I must fit my inspiration to the prompt instead of allowing the prompt to inspire. But the description of the book so inspired me that yet again the inspiration came before the prompt or in this case the 10 different prompts, each a different quote from the book. I chose the following quote for surely it is related to my most poignant experience during the civil rights years. Here are some facts about my youth that produced my attitudes regarding race relations. And I must state that at this time in my life I might get a date or two off, not quite right.
I grew up in New England my family moving from Scarsdale New York when I was about five. There were no persons of color in the area in which I grew up. The “N” word flew out of my mother’s mouth with disgusting regularity. I did not grow up with a television. My news exposure was to WBZ Boston radio, the Rutland Herald, Time and Life magazine. Because we three siblings had no exposure to persons of color and because my mother was so racist we were quite confused and didn’t really understand this hatred of people, people like us, but not like us, people whose skin was many different colors – we just didn’t grasp this hatred. We never really saw any African Americans. This poem is about my trip to Maryland during the March on Washington. I was about 15, and moved as never before in my life during this long bus trip.
“It is the peculiar nature of the world to go on spinning no matter what sort of heartbreak is happening.”
The Bus Trip
It was summertime and the days were warm, breezy, lazy.
In the river I floated upon the big raft, dangling my hands in water.
I looked up at the blue sky, billowy clouds floating by,
I was quiet, warm, comforted, at peace.
Walking along the river I kicked skunk cabbages.
They fascinated me kind of releasing a skunky smell.
They were everywhere thick along the waters edge.
I turned to my left walking through the riding ring.
Heading up the hill towards the house.
I had ridden earlier that day and contemplated my trip.
I would leave in a week taking a long Greyhound bus ride.
I was traveling from Vermont to Maryland.
I would be in the middle of hunt country.
There I would fox hunt for the next month.
This was a way of keeping me out of trouble.
The sort of trouble fifteen years old girls get into.
I heard about the March On Washington
I knew that it was very big, very important.
But it felt like it was worlds away, happening soon.
Who were these people to whom everyone was so cruel?
Why this cruelty, why this terrible meanness?
Why did Mummy use the word nigger so much?
It brought meanness to our home. I did not like that word.
What was wrong with her?
Tomorrow it was time to leave, to go away from home.
I packed, my breeches, my jackets, my hard hat, my crop.
But most important was my little transistor radio.
It was my link to the world. It would be put into my purse.
It was grey about the size of a pack of Mummy’s Lucky Strikes.
It had a round dial, I could hear Boston, a couple of other stations.
Tomorrow was the day that it was all happening.
I was leaving and The March was beginning.
I carried my bag, I got on the bus, I went to the back.
I snuggled up and watched who got on.
Always there were a few soldiers.
There were old men and women carrying paper bags.
And that was it. The door slid shut.
I liked the way the door closed. I enjoyed watching it close.
We started off on our journey, a long journey.
I ate my tuna fish sandwich.
Eating made me feel good, less lonely.
I snuggled in for a nap, but I could not sleep.
I got out my radio. It had started, The March.
Hundreds of people were going, thousands.
Then it got to be hundreds of thousands.
So many black people and white people too.
The marchers were so brave, they were doing something important.
Everyone should go on The March On Washington.
Especially if it would stop this terrible treatment of negro people.
Why did they make them live in separate places?
Why did white people hurt them? Why were people so mean?
The masses of people were becoming bigger and bigger now.
But it was peaceful, not like Birmingham, that terrible fire.
And soon there would be speeches by important men.
Mr. King, I knew that he was important.
He would make a difference. He would make it right.
I did not understand, why can’t negroes use the same bathrooms?
The only negro I knew was in my class, she had too many freckles.
Her father was an important man he was at the UN.
Now I was crying, this really was so unfair, this terrible hatred.
I just didn’t understand this hating so much.
I was glad I was listening to my radio.
I wish that I could get off the bus and go to The March.
It would be so much better than riding a horse to hounds and chasing a fox.
What is good about letting dogs rip apart a cute little fox?
I really want to get off this bus, now!
I want to do something meaningful. But where would I go?
How would I get to Washington, what if the march was over?
I laid back in my seat agitated wanting to be a part of this March.
But no, I was too young. I would only get into trouble.
I was sobbing. I hated these things. I hated all this unfairness.
I hated the terrible meanness. I hated going to Maryland.
The trip seemed so stupid in light of The March On Washington.
There one was going to make a difference!
Placed at The Imaginary Garden With Real Toads and at Poets United Sunday Poetry Pantry. This AM someone, a poet whom I did not know told that yesterday was !00,000 Poets for Change Day. This poem is also for marking that day.