It Was Summer Now and the Colored People Came Out Into the Sunshine
by Morgan Parker
They descend from the boat two by two. The gap in Angela Davis’s teeth speaks to the gap in James Baldwin’s teeth. The gap in James Baldwin’s teeth speaks to the gap in Malcolm X’s Teeth. The gap in Malcolm X’s teeth speaks to the gap in Malcolm X’s teeth. The gap in Condoleezza Rice’s teeth doesn’t speak. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard kisses the Band Aid on Nelly’s cheek. Frederick Douglass’s side part kisses Nikki Giovanni’s Thug Life tattoo. The choir is led by Whoopi Goldberg’s eyebrows. The choir is led by Will Smith’s flat top. The choir loses its way. The choir never returns home. The choir sings funeral instead of wedding, sings funeral instead of allegedly, sings funeral instead of help, sings Black instead of grace, sings Black as knucklebone, mercy, junebug, sea air. It is time for war.
About This Poem
“This is one of the last poems I wrote for my collection Magical Negro, which has an epigraph from Gertrude Stein’s Three Lives, from which the poem title comes. Magical Negro deals largely with intergenerational connection and Black American iconography, and the gap between Angela Davis’s teeth is one of the mascots that shows up in a few poems. I wanted this poem to be, in Glenn Ligon’s words, ‘negro sunshine’—a collective embrace and armoring. The last line of the poem wrote itself.”
Morgan Parker is the author of There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé (Tin House Books, 2017), Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up at Night (Switchback Books, 2015), and Magical Negro, forthcoming from Tin House Books in 2019. She lives in Los Angeles.