“Do Not Embrace Your Mind’s New Negro Friend”

By William Meredith 1919–2007 William Meredith
Do not embrace your mind’s new negro friend
Or embarrass the blackballed jew with memberships:
There must be years of atonement first, and even then
You may still be the blundering raconteur
With the wrong story, and they may still be free.

If you are with them, if even mind is friend,
There will be plenty to do: give the liars lessons
Who have heard no rumors of truth for a long time
But have whatever they hear on good authority,
Whether it concerns Chinese women or the arts.

Expose the patrons, some of whose best friends
Are brothers, and who are never now anonymous:
What kind of credit do they expect for that,
Ask them, or better, ask their protested brothers,
The grateful tenants who can’t get their curtsies right.

Finally the injured, who think they have no friend,
Who have been convinced by the repeated names
That they are jews or negroes or some dark thing:
They must be courted with the lover’s touch
And as guiltily as if yourself had turned them inward.

If you complete this program, you will have friends
From all the rich races of your human blood:
Meantime, engage in the often friendless struggle.
A long war, a pygmy war in ways,
But island by island we must go across.

William Meredith, “ ‘Do Not Embrace Your Mind’s New Negro Friend’ ” from Effort at Speech: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 1997 by William Meredith. Reprinted with the permission of the author and TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press, http://nupress.northwestern.edu.

Source: Effort at Speech: New and Selected Poems (1997)

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Poet William Meredith 1919–2007

Subjects Crime & Punishment, History & Politics, Social Commentaries

 William  Meredith

Biography

Acclaimed poet William Meredith wrote formal, disciplined poetry of cool observation, intelligence, and wit. A Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, and later the Poet Laureate Consulate in Poetry to the Library of Congress, Meredith was also a Director and Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. His many honors also included the Pulitzer Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Award, the National Book Award and the . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Crime & Punishment, History & Politics, Social Commentaries

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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