I’ve forgotten what I came to say.
it was gonna be about Juneteenth
the one that’s just gone by
“Why hello, Ms Hemings, Are You the One Whose Family Works for Thom?”
Or maybe that was gonna be its title.
I mean I capitalized all the right words.
Save one. And I wonder what it means that I
capitalize an H hello.
I remember now,
I was distracted.
By an email.
By an email about an Arthur Miller play,
the one called Incident at Vichy,
that I was in when just a boy of twenty six
or maybe I was twenty seven.
I thought I was a man then
and I was scared of being thirty.
The distraction of the email
remembering the fear of being
took me not to Vichy
but to Paris
when I’d become a man of sixty two
or maybe I was sixty three.
I knew I was a boy then
and I was scared of sixty five.
to get to butoh class…
You know butoh, right?
The one where you move slow enough
that your body empties
and the spirits of your relatives
who exploded with Hiroshima
or maybe it was Nagasaki
can enter you
and have their say
I had to leave what used to be the Hotel California…
but that’s what they used to call it
back then when I was there.
Just bear with me, will ya?
I had to leave the Left Bank’s Hotel California
the Bridge of the Archbishopric…
aka The Pont de l’Archevêché
but I prefer the English word Archbishopric
in hopeful hopes
that your first-class brain
will bounce toward boarding schools
and indigenous Canadians
and bodily remains.
so anyway I crossed The Pont de l’Archevêché
to cut behind Notre-Dame de Pari
to take the Pont Saint-Louis
to cross the Pont Louis Philippe
so I could saunter up Rue Vieille du Temple
to get to butoh class.
My distracted-by-butoh point here
on the ass-end of Île de la Cité
right there in Notre-Dame’s backyard
and still most likely are
down to the water
there’s a gate there to stop you from going
and the gate
on the way home from butoh class
the gate was unlocked and open
at the bottom of the stairs
I found myself…
or at least I found a part of me I’ve carried ever since.
I found myself
looking at the Seine
from the oh so disadvantaged point
mémorial des martyrs de la déportation
where they, whoever they were,
put them – we know who “them” were –
on the boats
And there I stood
with nothing I could do
a kind of metaphorical goodbye.
I promise you I did not think
that even if they, whoever they were,
had help from IBM
they were nowhere as efficient as we could be
where we just lynched them on the spot
and tossed them in the river
like we did with Emmett Till
or else we burned down part of Tulsa
and hoped those who lived would leave.
when I realized
on a bus
on June 15th in 2021
and the Black man I had nodded to
“I took you for one of those white guys
who won’t look up at Black folk
no matter what we do.
I was rude,”
“I should have said hello.
What’s that book you’re reading?”
And I handed him
On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed.
He took the book,
looked at its back cover,
wrote down the title and its author,
and only barely raised an eyebrow when I blurted,
“Good? It’s great!
Makes me wanna turn in my well-worn coonskin cap!”
I don’t know if he knew shit
about Davy Crockett’s headgear
or Jim Bowie’s knife
but I know he knew what coon meant
and suddenly so did I.
he pointedly refused to take offense
while nodding kindly if deliberately
“Thanks,” he said, “I’ll read it.”
And when the bus stopped at the corner
he got off.