Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, POEM TO NEGRO AND WHITES, by MAXWELL BODENHEIM

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

POEM TO NEGRO AND WHITES, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The elevator rises, negro men
Last Line: The mutual rescues, quiet, understood.
Subject(s): African Americans; Racial Equality; Stock Exchange; Negroes; American Blacks

The elevator rises, Negro men
Receive from Whites a condescending, slight,
Forever draped removal -- voice and pen
Intensifying sugar half-contrite.
A quiet, level spontaneity
Springs only where familiar burdens pile,
Far from the hired, night-club gaiety,
The inexpensive speech, the tactful smile.
The radio commentator rolls his trite
Evasions, taste of soap within his mouth
Newspapermen who know the truth must write:
"The delicate race question of the South."
The South! -- for years, astute, coarse, windy bands
Of men with venom blackening their lips
Have ruled the South, but they are not the lands,
The loads, the common, homely needs and whips.
They are the ones who spur the lyncher' feet:
They scurry out to spread old lie and smear.
Without them, southern Negroes, Whites could meet
And plan sane compromise within one year.
The soldiers in the foxholes, black and white,
Must function with reliance and respect,
And some who march back from pain-welded night
Will shoulder memories close and erect.
For in the centuries that seem to lift
Almost too imperceptibly for hope.
Equalities have been a threatened gift
Wrenched from the dim light where men thrash and grope.
This much we know -- a solid meeting sheers
From arduous, scarcely noticed brotherhood:
The bread, the stumbling labor shared for years,
The mutual rescues, quiet, understood.

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