Tuesday, February 11, 2014

On Shirley Temple's death, I sacrifice this poem

I say I sacrifice this poem, "Ducks and Swans on the Lagoon (at New Orleans City Park)," because usually once you post a poem online and leave it up, some literary magazines won't publish it. So, posting it here and leaving it up is like killing its publication future. But since it includes a reference to Shirley Temple Black who passed away last night, and it also covers the treacherous terrain of being a little girl black in the 1960s South, I decided to post it here while I work on an essay about the child star. When I wrote "Ducks . . .", much of what entered the poem had been floating in my subconscious for a while.

Also,  I took this poem down from Authors Den years ago when I removed poems I wanted to submit to publishers one day. However, I think technically, it's been published already. I believe it was included in a profile about me at the Poetry, Life & Timesbut I don't know if that's still around. That profile's definitely no longer online. So, this poem hasn't been anywhere but my computer for a while.

Ducks and Swans on the Lagoon (at New Orleans City Park)
By Nordette N. Adams

Once I was a little girl in white,
my dress's skirt flared out, pouffing
above stubby black knees.
Lace trimmed my white socks and kissed
the ankle rims of my spiffy bright
   Stride Rite shoes, perfect for kicking
the shins of boys who'd try to steal kisses
from a little brown girl
with springy, Shirley Temple curls.
Well-scrubbed, I smelled of Ivory
Soap and Johnson's Baby Powder still.

Daddy took me to City Park then.
Always before entering I yelled
at the general atop his stone steed
at the traffic circle:
  "Come down from there,
   you ole Beauregard!"
My mom had taught me to resist racism,
dead and living, I suppose.
In this way she inoculated me
from bigotry. She knew I'd surely meet
it one day on the streets
of New Orleans, Louisiana.

But back then I was just a little girl
with Shirley Temple curls in white,
sitting with her Daddy, giddy,
light and eager to feed ducks and swans.
They glided, rarely flapping above
the placid waters
of the City Park Lagoon.

And we cast our bread upon the waters
and fed the birds--ducks, swans, and
fat pigeons on the bank.
I was happy.

© Copyright March 2005 Nordette Adams


Denise said...


"Come down from there,
you ole Beauregard!"


Vérité Parlant said...

Thank you, Denise. :-)