The Black Man.

Elizabeth Catlett, Sharecropper

How dare he try to be more than he was.

More than a Jim Crow Law, a gutter word walking in the street,

more than a color or an ignorant language,

more than a sex drive, a temptation for white women and their daughters,

more than home remedies for squeaky door hinges, heat rash, dry skin,

more than a back entrance to the cinema, a rusty pipe filtering a water fountain,

more than jazz hands and a good ear for audible art, perfect pitch for song,

more than shuckin’ and jivin’ and entertainin’ them white folk,

more than a strong back, a fertile womb,

more than garbage collected in Africa, to be recycled in America,

more than an underground railroad, pitching the hopeless feat- Operation Freedom,

more than scratches dug into backs like wells from a stick marking the sand,

more than gizzards and pigs feet in the pot, boiling for a midnight snack,

more than cotton-picking, warm tobacco leaves out drying in the sun,

more than a bass voice thundering through the country,

more than a foul ship’s quarters, tossing babies out to sea to rest in peace,

more than a face to hate and brand and hang from trees,

more than one acre and a mule and a hopeless prayer,

more than just another boy, even as he pushes 85 years and counting-

if you thought that’s all he was.

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