Minor Miracle

Marilyn Nelson

 
Which reminds me of another knock-on-wood
memory. I was cycling with a male friend,
through a small midwestern town. We came to a 4-way
stop and stopped, chatting. As we started again,
a rusty old pick-up truck, ignoring the stop sign,
hurricaned past scant inches from our front wheels.
My partner called, "Hey, that was a 4-way stop!"
The truck driver, stringy blond hair a long fringe
under his brand-name beer cap, looked back and yelled,
          "You fucking niggers!"
And sped off.
My friend and I looked at each other and shook our heads.
We remounted our bikes and headed out of town.
We were pedaling through a clear blue afternoon
between two fields of almost-ripened wheat
bordered by cornflowers and Queen Anne's lace
when we heard an unmuffled motor, a honk-honking.
We stopped, closed ranks, made fists.
It was the same truck. It pulled over.
A tall, very much in shape young white guy slid out:
greasy jeans, homemade finger tattoos, probably
a Marine Corps boot-camp footlockerful
of martial arts techniques.
"What did you say back there!" he shouted.
My friend said, "I said it was a 4-way stop.
You went through it."
"And what did I say?" the white guy asked.
"You said: 'You fucking niggers.'"
The afternoon froze.
"Well," said the white guy,
shoving his hands into his pockets
and pushing dirt around with the pointed toe of his boot,
"I just want to say I'm sorry."
He climbed back into his truck
and drove away.
 
From The Fields of Praise, published by Louisiana State University Press. Copyright © 1997 by Marilyn Nelson. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Poems by This Author

Cachoeira by Marilyn Nelson
We slept, woke, breakfasted, and met the man
Churchgoing by Marilyn Nelson
The Lutherans sit stolidly in rows;
Daughters, 1900 by Marilyn Nelson
Five daughters, in the slant light on the porch,
Dusting by Marilyn Nelson
Thank you for these tiny
Little White Church by Marilyn Nelson
Us Free Will Baptists walked a thin tightwire
Mama's Promise by Marilyn Nelson
I have no answer to the blank inequity
The House on Moscow Street by Marilyn Nelson
It's the ragged source of memory,