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by Nathan Petrie

For Frank X Walker

Sixty-three degrees and wind whips
around Patterson and beats
through the black blazers and white
collars of politicians and students digging
into apple pie. On the lawn at the university,
three white leaders speak
of justice and a homogenous
catholic choir sings, “My Country
Tis of Thee.” In the back, a black man
scratches in a notebook. They sing,
“Land where my fathers died.”

He writes, tightens his hoodie—
applause, the choir’s finished. He doesn’t hear
his introduction—young, Kentucky
laureate—he hears dogs,
and the silence. Finds himself
at the podium anyway, speaking as students
shift in their seats, red ties lashes
in the wind. Closes,

“How many black presidents before
the descendant of that slave feel whole?”


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