Up from Slavery

Artress Bethany White
| poetry


My great-grandfather kept the peace / between the races / a man of two faces

qualified, after being born a slave / to rectify and demystify

the role of black men / before the throes of white sin. / Post-Reconstruction, to stay alive

raise eight children / with two wives / not at the same time. / A religious man

in the way blacks fell on Jesus / when violence fell on them

like white on rice / or white on raisins. / Call it charisma

he charisma’d between black and white / even in his photograph

square-jaw handsome / dissonance between coat and tie

and well-worn shoes / hint of a wedding ring knuckled from view.

A blond forelock brushed into tawny waves / any old-time Hollywood lead

might crave.

Artress Bethany White is a poet, essayist, and literary critic. She is the recipient of the Trio Award for her second poetry collection, My Afmerica (Trio House Press, 2019), and recently published a debut essay collection, Survivor’s Guilt: Essays on Race and American Identity (New Rivers Press, 2020).

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