The poem grew out of reflecting about teaching moments that remain most vivid
after decades. In this case, my prompt worked, but the most important part was that
I got out of the way. Teachers plant seed. We don't make the harvest, and often are
not even there when it happens. It this case, I was lucky.
Louie Clay (né Louie Crew), 78, is an emeritus professor at Rutgers. Editors have
published 2,379 of his manuscripts. Later in 2015 Church Publishing, Inc., will
release Letters from Samaria: Prose and Poetry of Louie Clay (né Louie Crew), Gay
Prophet of the Episcopal Church 1974-2014 selected and edited by Max Niedzwiecki
"You're making trouble.
Several of your other white colleagues
stormed here a few hours ago
to complain that you harass them!"
"What!?" I asked.
"They claim one of your students asked them
more than 20 questions about the Black community --
the names of the main funeral homes, churches,
restaurants, cemeteries – which we blacks use in this town.
I think I see what you're getting at, but can't you bail me out?
I've got enough headaches right now trying to get
the Methodists to fork up for some of our bills like they promised...."
I had told the student not to throw at me any more glib,
general complaints about how whites exploited blacks.
"Prove it," I badgered him. "Make the case stick.
You're not in a bull session.
We're not here to pool our ignorance or our feelings.
This is college. You're a lawyer in court. I'm a sleepy judge.
Awaken me, or lose your case!"
My student proved that most white teachers on the campus
did not live and move within the community
they purported to serve.
The missionaries, stung, squealed.
I remember that student's paper 40 years later.
I don't remember hundreds of safer ones.