Mr. Africa Poetry Lounge!
St. Peter Claver
Every town with black Catholics has a St. Peter Claver's.
My first was nursery school.
Miss Maturin made us fold our towels in a regulation square and nap on army
No mother questioned; no child sassed.
In blue pleated skirts, pants, and white shirts,
we stood in line to use the open toilets
and conserved light by walking in darkness.
Unsmiling, mostly light-skinned, we were the children of the middle class,
preparing to take our parents' places in a world that would demand we fold our
hands and wait.
They said it was good for us, the bowl of soup, its pasty whiteness;
I learned to swallow and distrust my senses.
On holy cards St. Peter's face is olive-toned, his hair near kinky;
I thought he was one of us who pass between the rich and poor, the light and
Now I read he was "a Spanish Jesuit priest who labored for the salvation of the
African Negroes and the abolition of the slave trade."
I was tricked again, robbed of my patron,
and left with a debt to another white man.
Written by Toi Derricotte
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