13 April 2010
by Justice Putnam
Black Kos, Tuesday's Chile Contributing Poetry Editor
I had a fairly heated discussion with a couple of Bible Belt tourists to San Francisco recently. I work at a small bed and breakfast on Nob Hill and we get visitors from around the world. I usually avoid political or religious discussions among the guests as they mingle in our lobby during afternoon tea and sherry; but I'll offer my opinion, historical and literary expertise when asked. The Bible Belt tourists complained that we "coddle" the poor here in San Francisco and proceeded to recite biblical verse to show the error of such charity. I reminded them that the city was named after St. Francis, after all; and I came from a liturgy that exalted charity.
They didn't know who St. Francis was, but were well acquainted with Leviticus; and shamelessly recited verse from his texts to "prove" the inferiority of gays, blacks and anything Liberal. They were complete "eliminationists" and I wondered why they came to San Francisco; business, apparently. When I attempted to approach the argument from a more secular and less religious stance, I was accused of being part of the, "blame America first crowd." It was like being on Fox News, only in the lobby of a small B&B in San Francisco, California. I'd had enough. It was completely lost on them, but I recited the following Michael S. Harper poem that is a small lesson in...
Those four black girls blown up
in that Alabama church
remind me of five hundred
middle passage blacks,
in a net, under water
in Charleston harbor
so redcoats wouldn't find them.
Can't find what you can't see
-- Michael S. Harper