those I’d love see live anywhere they like are those so black they up long planks in the heat of summer wheelbarrow coal so bright it pours in a silver seiche down chutes through windows of bungalow basements crashing in coal bins of new masters
is a poem based on fact, if memory serves, because only the blackest
men delivered coal to the bungalows on the far south side of Chicago
when I was in grammar school.
time frame for this poem was roughly 1948 to 1952 in a neighborhood of
white immigrants in Chicago. There was no overt racism toward the black
man wheelbarrowing the coal into the coal-bin basement window. The coal
truck would pull up and the white driver would dump a ton of coal and
the black guy would be left to spend the day taking the coal, a barrow
at a time, up a plank down the gangway to dump it into the window.
used to watch these men when I was in grammar school. I couldn’t get
over how hard they worked. The sweat was like a flood. They all wore a
version of the so-called do-rag to absorb the sweat. But the one thing
they seemed all to have in common was the degree of their blackness. I
never saw a mulatto or octoroon doing that kind of work.