You Can’t Talk To Us Like That

~ after Kathleen Graber


America, I've got a touch of cabin fever too 
& wish I could go to a favorite restaurant again,
walk down a short flight of steps into the cool
brick-lined interior of what used to be a speak-
easy. Wouldn't it be great to order a dozen each 
of the local oyster varieties, some bread 
& butter, a nice pull of something bubbly. 
We'd sing happy birthday or happy anniversary 
while clinking glasses & taking group pictures. 
But what if there's a man at a nearby table 
whose hatred boils over at the sight of anyone—
but especially brown people like us—having 
the gumption to reach for a little joy 
during this time of sickness & despair, 
which sometimes feels worse than death? 
America, he thinks we cannot be in the same
room with him. So we get video rolling. We 
ask him to repeat the hateful obscenities 
he's hurled our way, so he can be held
accountable & shown out of the building. 
We hold our ground, America. After all 
the years our kind broke their backs 
& your hard soil to bring fruit & grain 
to your table just so you can put a clean 
white cloth & a crystal service on it; 
after graveyard shifts during which
our kind daily tend to your sick 
& dying: we have the right to be here
& the wages are overdue.      
 

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