What Do You Call

You know, the white guy
In the film version of Raisin In The Sun,
Pudgy balding head,
Who comes to tell
The black family
Not to move to the
White Chicago suburb.
The man who smiles
With the knife,
Who IS a knife,
But fools them for
A second, because
They’re looking at him
The way he expects
Them to look at him.
Later, as they mop
Up the blood, they replay
What he said: that he
Was elected by his neighbors,
Because he’s the guy that
Can get his foot in the door,
Whipped and rumpled,
Like he’s been apologizing
Since he popped out of his
Mother’s womb, like he’s a
Close, personal friend of sorry.
 
He’s sorry now, in his wilted suit.
This is the way the knife
Gets through the door, and
He sits there, as they
Think, maybe he ain’t a
Knife in sheep clothes, baaa
Baaa, baaa; such a foolish-looking,
Goofy little white guy.
A small part of them, quietly
Embarrassed they’re even
Thinking that about him.
They can barely hold their
Manners in check, and that’s
His trick, the trick of the knife
You don’t see until you’re cut.
And the strangest thing
About this, the damn thing
Is how meek he still looks
After he cuts, and cuts again.
Dun as a female robin,
His tongue slices and whittles.
He is singing the song of his
Brood; money if you stay,
Fire if you come, as they think:
How did a white robe, a tinder cross,
And goon’s club trot through
Their door? A pack of Dobermans
Couldn’t have done a neater job,
Except that Dobermans of course, never
Apologize.

Cornelius Eady, "What Do You Call." Copyright © 2016 by Cornelius Eady. Used by permission of the author for PoetryNow, a partnership between the Poetry Foundation and the WFMT Radio Network.
Source: PoetryNow (2016)
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