The New Young American Poets: An Anthology

By Kevin Prufer | Go to book overview
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Allison Joseph

Numbers

My father taught me to measure
the worth of any good thing
by the number of black people
involved. Without sufficient numbers,

he wouldn't root for a team,
wouldn't eat in a restaurant,
wouldn't turn on his television
to watch the local newscast

that didn't have a black anchor.
He wanted black people
to appear on Masterpiece Theatre
—he'd lived in England so he knew

black people lived there—
wanted us on Evening at Pops
and Live from Wolf Trap,
the orchestra's black musicians

conveniently placed up front
for his recognition, wanted
every diva who performed at the Met
to be brown, proud, beautiful—

an endless string of Jessye Normans
and Leontyne Prices. He'd rage
at commercials, at The Brady Bunch,
at soap operas, Broadway musicals,

at any bit of American culture
tossed before us as entertainment
that dared not have a black cast member.
So I grew up rooting against the then

-72-

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