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At night the loading dock doors are open to the truckyard. The church sits in the middle, defiant and mostly empty. They would rather worship once a month in silence than sell to the company so the trucks can swing around without cursing church and chapel. It is quiet, nowhere the howling and spitting, the bump and smack of tow motors roaring into trucks or sliding and clicking in on electricity. Walking through the endless warehouse, I can hear the day's echoes and thoughts float down and collect in trash. I can hear you slicing the watermelon with a knife that shines like treachery and deceit or like peacemaking.

Months before this, you told a black manager, "I hate niggers." You hate with sincerity. A B.A. should put you in the white shirt the black manager has. You worked hard for your B.A. in evenings. Nigger has nothing to do with race, you say. Nigger is as nigger does. Nigger is a mark of the way one goes through the world, as if we are ships. Nigger is some bandit manner of sailing, stinking into harbor. Nigger is not really a person's color. A nigger cannot be a person. One day you saw me driving on the beltway and roared close, passing me in your Corvette, mouth open, laughing at me, ignoring me. Nigger is as nigger does. Run, nigger. Run.

You slice a whole watermelon because there is all of me to feed such an indigenous food. Smiling, you ask me to come over and take a break with you. "Father God, bless our food."

We sit in two chairs near the first truck door, the one near the walkway coming into work. I look out over the large truckyard of dirt and trash I have to sweep. "Lord, we thank Thee." I look into the blood flesh of fruit that I had so much of on my grandfather's farm as a child, and enjoyed so much with people who loved me. I look on the blood flesh of fruit that a doctor friend says heals the heart. "Father God, these blessings we are about to receive for the nourishment of our bodies."

You spit seeds into the yard, under the moon's white shining on the church's cross, and I eat just enough to have broken bread. In your heart you smash a black face with big white lips slurping across a thick slice of watermelon. The face turns to run and you kick it in the ass until it falls on itself and turns back to grin again. I get up to take my nightly nap away from all of what it takes to be responsible for myself, the lifting, the sweeping, the scrubbing dirt. You get up and wipe your hands on your pants, son of an eccentric father who died in a closet. In the warehouse's shallow echo, you hate me. My smile is a knife. I cut you in your dreams.

Michael S. Weaver's new collection of poems is Timber and Prayer, from the University of Pittsburgh Press. He is Associate Professor of English at Rutgers University, and he lives in Philadelphia.
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Author:Weaver, Michael S.
Publication:African American Review
Date:Dec 22, 1995
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