by Alan Berecka

As a kid she picked beans,
so on hot late summer days
my mother kept our hose
running with cold well water
drawn deep from the earth.
Lean black men tired and worn
appeared in our yard, slurped
the water down, poured it on
their heads and necks.
She ignored my father’s complaints
and stewed over our neighbor-
farmer’s sin of omission.

In black and white my father—
detached and entertained—
watched the Nightly News
and saw the torrents of water
gushing from the nozzles
of fire hoses, ripping into light
clothes and dark skin. He made
like Bobby Darin and began
to sing, "Splish splash
I was taking a bath..."

My father’s mother exercised
her right to vote just once
in her life. She pulled the lever
for George Wallace in ’68.
I was the only kid
in my third grade class
who campaigned for Wallace
and LeMay in our straw poll.
I remember giving a speech
about how the governor under-
stood the working man’s plight.

Before he died, Wallace begged
for forgiveness for standing
in the schoolhouse door and more.
But what about us whose votes
put him there? Sometimes I reckon
absolution must be like sweet water
trickling from a garden hose. Other times
I fear the thunder of a hundred Niagaras
crashing down on my head,
flaying my sins from this skin.

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