My mother grew morning glories that spilled onto the walkway toward her porch
Because she was a woman with land who showed as much by giving it color.
She told me I could have whatever I worked for. That means she was an American.
But she’d say it was because she believed
In God. I am ashamed of America
And confounded by God. I thank God for my citizenship in spite
Of the timer set on my life to write
These words: I love my mother. I love black women
Who plant flowers as sheepish as their sons. By the time the blooms
Unfurl themselves for a few hours of light, the women who tend them
Are already at work. Blue. I’ll never know who started the lie that we are lazy,
But I’d love to wake that bastard up
At foreday in the morning, toss him in a truck, and drive him under God
Past every bus stop in America to see all those black folk
Waiting to go work for whatever they want. A house? A boy
To keep the lawn cut? Some color in the yard? My God, we leave things green.
Brown, a Louisiana native, is the author of The New Testament and Please
This story is part of TIME’s August 6 special issue on the American South. Discover more from the issue here.
This appears in the August 06, 2018 issue of TIME.