Our Black Maid

Yes we had a black
maid in the Fifties. Petite,
silent Geneva.

When we drove her home,
I could feel my Dad break up
inside: past the tracks,

the fetid canal.
We were American gnostics:
love of Christ, country,

and paranoia
towards the Other. She was
other, beautiful.

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Author: Tom D'Evelyn

Tom D'Evelyn is a private editor and writing tutor in Portland OR and, thanks to the web, across the US and in the UK. His blogs include poemswithoutborders.com He can be reached at tom.develyn@comcast.net. D'Evelyn has a PhD in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley. Before retiring he held positions at The Christian Science Monitor, Harvard University Press, Boston University and Brown University. He ran a literary agency for ten years, publishing books by Leonard Nathan and Arthur Quinn, among others. Before moving to Portland OR he was managing editor at Single Island Press, Portsmouth NH. He blogs at http://tdevelyn.com and other sites.

10 thoughts on “Our Black Maid”

  1. This poem is extraordinary. In so few words you lay out the zeitgeist of post-WW2 America. Hauntingly humane, diamond-clear, prophetic. The breaking up inside: one man, and the nation.

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  2. The other in this and in many cases is not simply if at all beautiful, but is suffering. They should not to be used for the ideological purpose of anyone, least of all to assuage guilt.

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  3. So the word “beautiful” sears and rips into and exposes how this racist culture works? It’s beautiful, that is for some at the outrageous expense of others. Beautiful. Don’t unpack this one too much.

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  4. Marion, you are a close reader of these lyrics so you know my interest in giving voice to the tensions of the historical moment. The lyrics are about passage, finitude, value, history. Cultural relativism. I think the little narratives are often perplexing but not ambiguous.

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  5. This poem is wonderfully inclusive of the compromised and polar opposites it contains. Seen from a singular vantage point, childhood memory, the tensions are as necessary as one hopes they are intentional. The controlling image is equally unfettered by the weight of history yet not apart from it. I enjoyed the poem immensely.

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  6. I’ve just found this one, Tom. I liked it immediately for its economy of speech and its subtle revelations of time and place and culture. And then I read the previous comments, especially those by Marion who very pertinently questions the word beautiful – all of which set me thinking all over again. So, a poem which has set thoughts in motion.

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