Academic journal article Southern Quarterly

Drinking Fountains, Birmingham, Alabama, 1956

Academic journal article Southern Quarterly

Drinking Fountains, Birmingham, Alabama, 1956

Article excerpt

after a photograph by Gordon Parks

There like Tantalus starving beneath boughs of luscious fruit,

the little girl, a couple of steps ahead, gazes at posters of delights

outside storefront glass reflecting the witness of silhouetted trees.

Though everything is black or white, the innocent swirls

of strawberry ice cream for a quarter must have been

shocking pink, and the "Lickety Split" cornucopia of banana

and sauces a veritable rainbow for only ten cents more,

that butterscotch and Dairy Queen butter pecan

more golden than any honey in the Promised Land.

I've heard that Sibelius asked his grandchildren

for their dreams each morning, and if they said

they had dreamt of birds, he asked what kind of birds,

and if the birds had been singing, then what kind of songs.

With her gossamer back toward us, hand on hip

as she stands considering, while her lovely, obedient mother

stoops to "COLORED ONLY" for the sparkling arc

that looks to be clean enough and possibly just as cold

as the one would be a few inches from its side,

we can but wonder if her dreams too hadn't been filled

by some melodious count before this heaven of days

when she and mama would parade alike,

lightly starched in their whitest finery

with the bliss of sweets on their lips, perhaps

stopping for a sip from either fount. …

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