IN THE HEYDAYS OF HIS EYES
(taut jeans dancing)

An Anthology of Poetry about Being Young and Growing Up
 
 
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ST. PETER CLAVER

Toi Derricotte

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 whiteness; 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 trade." I was tricked again, robbed of my patron, and left with a debt to another white man.


BLACK BOYS PLAY THE CLASSICS

Toi Derricotte

The most popular "act" in Penn Station is the three black kids in ratty sneakers & T-shirts playing two violins and a cello--Brahms. White men in business suits have already dug into their pockets as they pass and they toll in a dollar or two without stopping. Brown men in work-soiled khakis stand with their mouths open, arms crossed on their bellies as if they themselves have always wanted to attempt those bars. One white boy, three, sits cross-legged in front of his idols--in ecstasy-- their slick dark faces, their thin wiry arms, who must begin to look like angels! Why does this trembling pull us? A: Beneath the surface we are one. B: Amazing! I did not think they could speak this tongue.

 
 
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