A Paler Shade of White

A small boy, I stood behind tall weeds,
feet planted in Japanese-breed marshland,
watched shabbily-dressed men disembark
from a ship off South Carolina Coast.
They seemed to stink, harassed, underfed, miserable,
I wanted to share leftover French-Fries and ketchup,
stuffed in the bottom of my McDonald’s Happy Meal bag,
but inter-racial love was against the Law then.     

An old meth-man, pushing Methuselah 175,
I remember such sorry-people — Pappy Charlie told me
some went to plantations in the fields of Georgia,
Louisiana, maybe Alabama with bluesy-banjos
on their beaten knees, their former wives and kids,
destined elsewhere, life fandango
Come 1969, Pap said, “Listen, my boy –
that’s why ‘dem darkies are all stickin’ together,
marchin’ round city-street, carryin’ signs ’bout freedom,
votin’ rights, getting good bus seats,
‘dem things that don’t actually matter ta workin folk.”

“Ya here me boy?”
yea, Pappy, I hear ‘ya.
Napoleon said Armies march on their stomach,
suppose me and slaves do too,
I am lucky to have good work-habits, attitude,
a job, Obamamittland unemployment at 8.5 %,
I am a white-man, Winston Smith offspring,
I learned to love Imperialism –
someday I hope to become Union bricklayer,
construct walls around Bethlehem,
maybe a Maginot Line around Manhattan’s
lovely Wall Street, class-cleansed district.

Stock Brokers and IDF paramilitary
shall see me dismount a 10-speed bicycle,
take notice of my M.J.-tanned skin.
August 2012, I see Bleecker Street Post Offices is closed,
Pappy’s buried on the edge of Elmhurst woods,
I hear an F-18 overhead, baaaazooooooom…
wars going on everywhere, peace is Homeland Law–
O man… I wished I learned to play banjo
like black man strummer Robert Johnson,
make a few bucks in NYC subways, until someone
happens to walk by, say, “Hey, boy, want to make money?
I need someone to make deliveries to downtown offices,
are you interested?”

Divorced, stinky, miserable, nothing in lunch-pail,
O yea, man, that’s cooool – I accept the position.
The man hands me a stolen mailman sack, an advance,
Mets tickets, upper-deck pigeon-seats,
tells me, “O.K., boy, sack’s’ loaded with fine feel-good stuff;
each package is specifically addressed,
no need to collect payment; all you must do is DELIVER shit,
not complicated, I am paying $35.00 per drop –
you’ll be a rich-man come Pale Labor Day.

When I’m in Key West, maybe Acapulco next year,
them well-dressed business folk shall remember me.
Colgate smiles, happy to greet me, hugged cocaine packages,
complimented my 10-speed, Warsaw Ghetto tatoo.
No more am I in a dump, a sorry “white-nigger,”
Road to Wigan Pier  is under QE3 construction,
I tell neighbors the world is now mine, mine, mine –
some listened, got message, jumped George Washington bridge,
did Michael Phelps breaststrokes to Cuba, rowed boats ashore,
looked for work in Camp X-Ray Kitchens, Inc.

Charles Orloski lives in Taylor, Pa. He can be reached at: orlovzek13@al.com. Read other articles by Charles.