Gordon Parks: Untitled, Alabama, 1956 (Two Black Boys, One White)

Two black boys give their best cowboy scowls, gripping
toy pistols, one pointed off to a stranger ducking
outside the photo frame, the other gun aimed

at me gawking at Polaroid Alabama ‘56. That white boy gives
a dumb-looking grin, shirtless, his white skin and hair cut
lit up by the noon-sun. All three stand

in front of a white-wood double-wide, cardboard and garbage
collected neatly to the side. All three hug the wire fence
as if they could only frolic so far into

a Technicolor future, the pigment of their flesh
and their present given hue.
But I see my father

in this white boy–how he cracked helmets
with black boys during fall, how their palm-sweat would squelch
between clasped hands as one lifted the other up

from the mud and turf, how they’d hustle
to a fence post, unfasten their straps and shoulder pads,
and try to catch their collective breath.

After practice talking up NFL-dreams.
School days chewing tobacco in bathroom stalls, and fumbling
with little girls. Weekends playing soldiers, pretending

to load each other’s chests with lead. Sprawled
on the lawn together, playing
dead ‘til their mothers beckoned them to bed.

Jackson Hall


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