The Changing of Vision with Time
Jack Butler


My father's hair was black, blue-black back then.
He was a pilot who had flown his plane
into the ground and lived.  But war was over,
over forever, and he was home.  My mother,
she could have been a movie star,
so pretty and her loose red hair.
The Mississippi was the biggest river,
and I would fly a rocketship in outer space.
I remember when I had a boys' face.


Uncles, oh I had aunts and uncles.  Dozens.
And Barbara and Wayne were my first cousins.
The land was Butler land, and we stood tall.
My grandfather could do anything at all,
could fix a tractor, build a church,
run a plantation.  The front porch
was better than a downtown movie hall,
and the greatest song of all was clearly "Amazing Grace."
I remember when I had a boy's face.


Red and blue cellophane, and Captain 3-D
would jump the panels to reality
to save us from the cat-people.  If you were true,
if you were honest, God would look after you.
Maybe not with money, but with
good love, good food, good times, good health.
Not even the greatest painter could outdo
the smoky broken violet of the sun's last rays.
I remember when I had a boy's face.


Mornings I left my footprints, oh I left
bright wreckage in the dew-drenched clover-drift,
went in to breakfast.  Black men called me Mister
and stepped aside and tipped their hats to my sister
because they knew our family kept
the land together.  And when I slept,
I always dreamed of flying, and flying faster,
and later I dreamed of sex, and later I dreamed of grace.
I remember when I had a boy's face.

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