Thank You For Your Service
Who could know that after Pearl Harbor
my Ohio farm-raised uncles would enlist,
proud to be Army and Navy bound,
to defend their country, and who could know
they’d march into World War II,
relegated to segregated units,
except, on European soil they’d
stand taller, tread lighter
not shunned or shamed
not damned or diminished,
but respected as Americans
accepted as men, bronze skin and all,
would shelter and fight in foxholes
with white soldiers, break bread --
and they’d return home heroes, hoisted
high on their countrymen’s shoulders
as if the U.S. had changed
as if the home-front war was done raging,
except after the homecoming parade
after the champagne and speeches,
it was business as usual.
To the clerk who schooled me on the real world
If I believe anything, it’s that I must have conveyed confidence, maturity, a presence. I strode through the swinging, glass-windowed door of the Cass Technical High School office clutching my Senior Trip deposit. Twenty-five dollars.
I stated my name. You opened a black three-ring binder. Down the page you ran your index finger, poised it below my last name. I inquired about the asterisk. The one in the margin, before the C of Cassells. Asked why it was there. And you told me.
My skin prickled, and I wondered aloud why it mattered who the colored kids were. Required you to look me in the eye. Held your gaze, an invisible thread between us. Perspiration broke out below the bridge of your cat-eye glasses, beneath your nose, darkened your faint bleached-blond mustache. Your lips spoke a truth of 1960: “We have to know who the colored kids are so we can assign roommates properly.” No mixing of races would be welcomed or tolerated.
My body went rigid. My heart quickened. Wordless, I had nothing more to ask or say. Neither did you.
I handed over my money and exited the same way I entered.
Annis Cassells: “I am a writer, life coach, and career teacher. I published my first poetry collection, You Can’t Have It All, in 2019, and am working on my second collection. I am a collaborator in the social justice anthology, ENOUGH, “Say Their Names…”Messages from Ground Zero to the WORLD, poetry and prose inspired by the board-up art work and photography from the 2020 BLM protests around the U.S.
“Born in Detroit, I live part-time in California and Oregon, and conduct memoir writing classes for senior adults.
“I love connecting with people and aim to continue making a difference in today’s world.”