Every town with black Catholics has a St. Peter Claver's.
My first was nursery school.
Miss Maturin made us fold our towels in a regulation square
and nap on army cots.
No mother questioned; no child sassed.
In blue pleated skirts, pants, and white shirts,
we stood in line to use the open toilets
and conserved light by walking in darkness.
Unsmiling, mostly light-skinned, we were the children of the
middle class, preparing to take our parents' places in a
world that would demand we fold our hands and wait.
They said it was good for us, the bowl of soup, its pasty
I learned to swallow and distrust my senses.
On holy cards St. Peter's face is olive-toned, his hair kinky;
I thought he was one of us who pass between the rich and poor, the
light and dark.
Now I read he was "a Spanish Jesuit priest who labored for the
salvation of the African Negroes and the abolition of the slave
I was tricked again, robbed of my patron,
and left with a debt to another white man.