We stop in Southside Virginia,
Early autumn, 1949,
Leaves a soft gold.
A restored-plantation visit.
Just like the illustrated (and sanitized – no poor, no sickness, no frowns)
Books my conservative aunt and uncle would send:
New England colonies, Mid-Atlantic colonies, and
Southern colonies – those with plantations, like this one –
And black workers – never called slaves ….
We walk the plantation.
We visit slave log cabins – yes “slave” was used there in that piece of history ….
That night, deeper down small-town-South-tobacco-US 301-no Interstates –
In central North Carolina
I wrote to that aunt and uncle,
Told them those slave cabins in Virginia were “quaint.”
I wrote another card the next day.
Describing a local slave market – restored – as “quaint.”
My parents said nothing.
My aunt and uncle thanked me for the cards.
Those cards and “quaint” came to me the past month with books:
Black Water Rising –
Cutting Season –
Warmth of Other Suns –
Strange Fruit –
Expendable Man -.
Half a Heart –
Then, I saw – just last week – a homeless black woman on an old church’s steps
Washing clothes by hand –
New cars passing, stores selling.
She wasn’t quaint, not at all ….
Eugene “Gene” Novogrodsky, late January 2013: