I Was This Black Boy
The present poem is one in a series of five entitled “I Was, I Am.” The other four have appeared in previous issues of COMMENTARY.
Once I was walking about in the black of night and in darkness,
and saw a blind man walking with a torch in his hand.
I said to him: My son, why the torch?
He said to me: So long as this torch is in my hand, people see me
and save me from the pits and the thorns and the thistles.—Midrash
I was this black boy bawling for my wool
arm, caught like a white fox in the sprung
trap of subway doors, calling, Pull! Pull
me from the choking underground of mother!
—And all my sophist father does is show
in photograph his clever haircombed son
playing him with a real telephone.
I was my brother’s son and held my blind
young anguish up high for men to see.
But my father had his own old torch,
my uncle saw my bleeding, but no thorns.
I am this man of peace whom all the bold
children shoot with tommyguns of tin,
and die a thousand mimic deaths,
to live again till son of my delight
call me to the window, at his side
to watch the flashing signs of our God:
Who is the engineer and drives the train
underneath the pavement of our lives.
I am this man who rides dark with hope
till I be father, and my son bring light.