The Town Fathers

At the Courthouse Square
On the Fourth of July,
Beneath Old Glory’s
Pyrotechnic sky,
The town fathers met,
Minus Bible and rye.
Against the statue
Of Confederate dead
The Mayor spat
His snuff and said,
“We need a slogan!”
And he palmed his head.
The Sheriff’s idioms
Dynamited assent.
The Judge croaked a phrase
Latinistically bent.
And the Mayor pondered
With official intent.
On a neon billboard,
As high as a steeple,
The travelers puzzle
The amazing sequel:
The Blackest Land
And The Whitest People.

Melvin Tolson, "The Town Fathers" from Harlem Gallery and Other Poems of Melvin B. Tolson (Charlottesville: The University Press of Virginia, 1999)
Source: "Harlem Gallery" and other Poems of Melvin B. Tolson (University Press of Virginia, 1999)
More Poems by Melvin B. Tolson