I am stricken with the paint of bigots,
Cast in the colors they throw on me.
I am mulatto, all coffee and cream.
But when I am looked at, not seen, but looked at,
I wear the needle-sharp dichromatic stripes of a prisoner.
I am held in lurid limbo that’s neither here nor there.
What opportunities wait for me?
I am too dark for whites to hire,
And yet I smell too much of white supremacy
To earn respect from the half-liberated slaves.
Pushed in the dark soil by whites and slighted by blacks,
I find no acceptance outside of my skull.
So inward I turn.
There are the warm embraces I long for.
Simple, aren't they?
Lost on me.
But not all is lost.
As I live forward, the slant of oppression has reeled back.
A relic, I am the last who would identify as mulatto.
A lesson, I have shown blacks that unity is power.
A mule, I have shown whites that Jim Crow is not invincible.
I am a mixed man for whom the definition of equality begins with the words “hopefully later”.
The hope is there, though I know I will not be.
To see the marbled crowds, black and white and mulatto and free! Free!
Shouting till their lungs tear, “Equal rights in human sight!”
Not in my sight, but in the sight of the youth.
The elongated tears of my thoughts slip down my grained and pockmarked cheek.
They glide past overall denim worn white with age.
They slide down the length of my farm-hardened legs.
They land at the base of this rickety wood porch.
They soak the ground.
Next to a seed.
A seed I plant for my children to reap.