John Warner Smith
Not much has changed since days long ago,
when the only things that separated
my parents’ front yard from white families
were a boulevard, a field of tall grass
and the walls of Jim Crow segregation,
except at the neighborhood grocery store,
where everybody’s money was welcome.
I have my own back yard now,
and white neighbors all around,
enclosed by fences they built
after I moved in. We politely greet
with first names. We shop the bargains
and root for the local sports teams.
From my back porch, I often sit
and listen to them playing soul music.
But we pray in separate churches,
send our kids to separate schools,
and vote for different political parties.
Sometimes, I feel just one song, one
prayer, one raging shout away
from tearing the walls and fences down.
John Warner Smith is a Cave Canem fellow whose first book, A Mandala of Hands, was published by Aldrich Press in 2015. His second book is forthcoming from MatHat Press. Smith’s poems have appeared in or are forthcoming in Ploughshares, Callaloo, Antioch Review, The Worcester Review, Fourteen Hills, Pembroke, Kestrel, African American Review, American Athenaeum and other literary journals. Smith’s poems have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and the Sundress Best of the Net Anthology. Smith earned his MFA at the University of New Orleans. He teaches English at Southern University in Baton Rouge. His poetry can be found at johnwarnersmith.com