Today's poem is by Michael McFee

Straw Poll

I was only fourteen, but I voted for George Wallace
or at least for his ninth-grade representative
in language arts because-the criteria that day—
his speech and logic were much more persuasive.
Humphrey and Nixon never stood a chance.

Ted was a future lawyer who, from birth, knew
how to smile or frown or whisper or pause or hold
eye contact with his audience, converted doubters,
and how to spin shitty straw into gleaming gold.
Who knows what he really said? It sounded true.

I can't believe the young me voted for that racist.
I can't believe Ted argued Wallace's case, either,
though maybe it was merely an oratorical exercise,
like debating whether day or night is better.
I can't believe our teacher set up such a contest,

but she did, and counted ballots, and, straightening,
simply said "George Wallace" to her white pupils
in that mountain classroom, in the fall of '68,
when integration was a cloud coming over the hills,
the color of a bruise, about to deliver lightning.

Copyright © 2012 Michael McFee All rights reserved
from the Southern Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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