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Callaloo 24.1 (2001) 67-68

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Nikky Finney

Arthur Ravenal, Republican Senator from South Carolina, called the NAACP the "National Association for Retarded People" at a Confederate flag support rally. He later said, "I made a mistake and I feel very badly about it because I said retarded people and I have a retarded son." He added, "that does not mean I'm apologizing to the NAACP."

How does the father
with the son
struggling to be seen whole
in the eyes of the world
forget the son
long enough
for a slip of the tongue
to be recorded
for posterity's sake
how does the father not think
that the son will ever know
what he said
that day at the rally
when he slipped
and he the father revealed
his true feelings
about he
the son
the same feelings
he feels about people
how does the father
slip off one tongue
while he is rallying
his confederate troops
and slip on another[End Page 66]

after the rally
when he is home
with his son
gentle inheritor of his name
he does not
the slippery tongue is one in the same
What could make you
forget your son?
a fight over a flag
the heat from a simmering civil war
hate stops at nothing
not even
the sacred door
to a son's private room

Nikky Finney has published a book of short stories (Heartwood, 1998) and two books of poetry (most recently Rice, 1995). The winner of the Mary Magdelene Literary Award and various grants and teaching awards, Finney is also a founding member of The Affrilachian Poets, a community-based writing collective.