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May Day '44

The Principal had decided we would put on
A pageant something about
How important cotton was to the world
Which we celebrated
By building a cardboard plantation in front
Of the school and because
There were no blacks at Berryhill Elementary
Some of us dressed
			up as pickaninnies
They actually called us that you pickaninnies
Come over here
Miss Calloway said and remember you can't go up
To the big house
You are slaves and that is out of bounds
So we milled around
Behind this split-log fence in our shoepolish
While the teacher's pets
Got to sit in rocking chairs
On this fake front porch drinking ice tea
And sucking on empty
Corncob pipes until a convoy train came roaring by
				filled with soldiers
And we all broke loose
Running pell-mell to the tracks to wave at them
					yelling and screaming
Blacks and whites
			together and throwing wads
Of surgical cotton in the air like tiny
In the steam
But the soldiers weren't wearing khaki
					it was Confederate gray
And the Principal came outside
With his yardstick that had the hole 
In it swatting at us
			right and left saying
Get back from there
Where's your manners
Leave those people alone goddamit
Don't you know a Nazi when you see one

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