Another Poem

In June of 1950, dad, mom, big brother, baby, and I
headed out for California in our 1940 DeSoto
to dad’s new job as plant superintendent.
It was a long trip and more’n once we had to stop
‘side the road, scramble down a creek,
fetch ice cold water to douse a steaming radiator
‘cuz that old car was loaded down with
a crib, high chair, boxes tied on top, ‘nuff pans
and clothes to live two weeks until the rest caught up.

When we reached Oakland, we went looking for a place
to rest ‘til we could get our own home.
Stopped at a clean-looking motel, and ma
went in to see what rooms were available.
Woman looked at us sitting in the parking lot
and pointed down the road, saying,
“You can’t ‘ford this. You’ll be happier
down the road where they take your kind.?

Knew right away mom wasn’t no happier.
She didn’t cuss none but sure didn’t have
nothing nice to say about that uppity clerk,
‘cept we could afford anything we wanted
what with dad’s company paying all the bills
for us having to move down there. The other
motel looked worse’n the projects across the street
from our old house, and we sure weren’t no project people.

Maybe that’s why it felt so good,
despite a bloody nose, six months later
when I pummeled the class bully
out behind the old school house
for calling James, who lived with his family
out behind the gas station, “a dumb Okie,?
and James, bigger’n us both, not saying nothing back
just standing there, looking down, quiet and polite and all.