by Jnana Hodson

“The African Road” carries more
than a chapter of history
plus footnote.
– Jap Creek. Chink Gulch.
Who do you THINK built the railroads?
Does “China Gulch” tell it better?
Nellies Nipple
Whorehouse Meadow.
Look lady, I don’t care if your sister
IS named Nellie, should she
be offended?
That tag was on long before she came.
Now you demand we rename it?
As if Mother Earth
soils someone’s honor.
College Peaks?
Naughty Girl Meadow?
Those girls were more than naughty.
Tell the kids one more white lie.
The frontier wasn’t a picnic
or a Disney facade.
Denying history’s offensive.
Don’t make our maps
TV westerns.
Let children know the prick of truth
as well as its pleasure.
If Bostons weren’t gentle to Redmen,
despite marrying squaws,
Irish, Mexicans, freed slaves
didn’t get much better.
Or schoolmarms
& preachers urging others on.

Brassiere Hills
& Maidenform Mountains
uphold blossoms & storms
spinsters regret.
Let Cat House Creek
WeeWee Hill
Smackass Gap
Pleasure House Creek
proclaim what they were
forever mingling
among older callings


“The African Road”? Where the only
Negro family in the county lived.
But the land they farmed is apartments
& ranch houses. Not one black face that I know of.
(Blacks live next door to Italians in town.)

At the zoo he sees a snake devour a mouse
or rabbit. And cries. He loses his Golden Books.
Mommy will fix them. She’ll write to the newspaper
& arouse her friends, who require meat three times
each day. Although you eat hamburgers & hot dogs,
Mommy won’t tell you what’s died for your sins.
Wieners aren’t made out of bow-wows. But she’ll
get those snakes erased when politicians
catch her baked potatoes.

Ignoring the truth’s a kind of abortion.
And the truth? Freedom?
The newspaper owner’s wealth? And
people afraid of most books save the Bible?
“Playing Seven UP”
he wins the money and is
“afraid to pick it UP”

Now Daddy fears that song
& its HooDoo
– tabu sound put a people down –
what calls his grand-daddy a thief
Vanderbilt. Morgan. & Chink Gulch.

— originally published in Second Coming (San Francisco)
copyright by Jnana Hodson