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Sample Poems by Chris Bullard


Tuscaloosa, 1959

Sent to find the bathroom by my mother,
I was confounded to pick out which door
To open. One said White, while the other
Was stenciled Colored. If older, or more
A native, I wouldn't have needed to think,
But I was stumped to know if I was white -
My hair was yellow, and my skin was pink.
Vanilla, I was not. Still, I guessed right,
Or right, as Alabama would have had me
Discriminate (just as when I chose Men
As where to take a piss and not Women).
I sauntered through into identity
Though somewhat flustered to have accepted
Without a protest what was expected.



A Pound of Feathers

In second grade, someone posed the riddle:
Which was the heavier: a pound of lead,
Or a pound of feathers? With no middle
Choice left, anyone with a practical head
Declared himself for the weight of metal,
Which had, at least, the feel of solid logic,
Though the more cynical came to settle
On eider, guessing it was all a trick.
But those who argued the two were the same
Were hounded as show-offs and worse was done
To girls who tried to get into the game.
We would allow two sides to each question;
Which one you choose didn't matter much to us,
But not choosing sides - that was dangerous.



Million Dollar Movie


Throughout the sixties my mother parked me
At the feet of TV's cowboy heroes
Who rode on horseback through rains of arrows
And took spinster teachers to quilting bees.
I hated them. I wanted comedies
Set in New York bars with grand pianos
Where swells in white ties and tails plied Eros
With frothy cocktails, or smart Martinis.
I wasn't shooting for a hometown honey
But for a blonde out of caf'e society:
Snub-nosed, she'd snub my clumsiness until,
Intoxicated on our repartee
And highballs served in deco-style crystal,
She'd cling to me like I was old money.




Cocoa Beach, Florida, 1961

When the countdown droned through its final ten,
Our teacher clapped hands for her third grade class
To pay attention as Freedom 7
Went spiraling up like a touchdown pass.
TV was offering a new frontier.
We thought we'd be given metal helmets
At Rocket High School where we'd volunteer
For missions colonizing the planets.
But teacher shouted, "Return to your seat."
She chalked more facts for us. God, this was slow.
We knew Geography was obsolete.
Why should we learn the rivers of some place
In Southeast Asia where we'd never go?
Countries meant nothing. We would live in Space.