Readers Write: My country is black and white


My poem (that follows) celebrates the legacy of civil rights and Dr. Martin Luther King. It was based on personal experience on a crowded F train; how a withering commute can lead to unexpected intimacy between strangers.

The poem speaks to the joy and kindness we are blessed to share; offering a vision that transports us to a better place — to realize the significance of “I have a dream” of King’s great vision — a testament to the wonderful power of language that speaks to the heart of humanity.

I was always struck by the eloquence and transformative power of his vision in all its plentitude, its love and passion for humanity that enriches and invites everyone to participate and live the dream. We are the ones who make it possible.

King bestowed his thoughtful gift for everyone — few people have understood our nation’s history and complexity as closely. King also had the passion, the wisdom, and the sensibility to make the move to better it.

An elderly woman nodded off to sleep
Resting her head on my shoulder.
We were two strangers seated next to each other
On the subway heading home.
She was black and I white.
Which of course, makes no difference.

With open arms I received her delicate ear.
Soft and comfortable is my shoulder — like a pillow.
We never spoke. I never questioned.
I took pains not to stir the entire ride,
For I could think of no greater purpose
than not to disturb.

We speak of race as something revered —
A trustworthy script. It is an act of mind
Beyond which the actor must rise.
We speak of a Black World,
And a White World.
I can only see a poem, and
My country is black and white.

My charge awoke refreshed upon reaching
Her destination and leapt for the exit —
Knowing everything of our arrangement.
Humanity is black and white.
Each person adds to the vital treasure,
Like an inspirational Mahalia Jackson song,
Stretching upward, full of grace and the divine.

Stephen Cipot

Garden City



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