September 25, 2022

White Father, Black Son

by Joseph Mills

He watches his son walk off the court
and sees someone greet him, or try to;
there is an awkward collision of hands,
and it jolts the parent as he recognizes
knowledge his child lacks and needs.

At home, he googles Youtube videos
of handshakes, hand grips, hand clasps,
high fives, soul shakes, fist bumps,
so he can teach his son how to navigate
encounters in the gym, the halls, the world.

They practice a few, then the son wants
to make one up, so they choreograph
a high-five, wrist slide, elbow bump;
the boy adds spin moves until it’s more
of a dance routine than handshake.

All day he keeps leaving the room
just to return and greet his father,
delighting in the pleasure of entwining
their arms in a sinuous moving display,
a kind of pas de deux of manhood,

but eventually the parent grows afraid,
the point after all is to fit in, not stick out.
“Keep it simple,” he insists, “and remember
this one is just for us.” The boy nods,
“I know, Daddy. I know who we are.”