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Let Us Suppose

Sterling A. Brown

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LET US suppose him differently placed
In wider fields than these bounded by bayous
And the fringes of moss-hung trees
Over which, in lazy spirals, the carancros soar and dip.

Let us suppose these horizons pushed farther,
So that his eager mind,
His restless senses, his swift eyes,
Could glean more than the sheaves he stored
Time and time again:
Let us suppose him far away from here.

Or let us, keeping him here, suppose him
More submissive, less ready for the torrent of hot Cajan speech,
The clenched fist, the flushed face,
The proud scorn and the spurting anger;
Let us suppose him with his hat crumpled in his hand,
The proper slant to his neck, the eyes abashed,
Let us suppose his tender respect for his honor
Calloused, his debt to himself outlawed.

Let us suppose him what he could never be.

Let us suppose him less thrifty
Less the hustler from early morning until first dark,
Let us suppose his corn weedy,
His cotton rusty, scantily fruited, and his fat mules poor.
His cane a sickly yellow
Like his white neighbor's.

Let us suppose his burnt brick color,
His shining hair thrown back from his forehead,
His stalwart shoulders, his lean hips,
His gently fused patois of Cajan, Indian, African,
Let us suppose these less the dragnet
To her, who might have been less lonesome
Less driven by Louisiana heat, by lone flat days,
And less hungry.

Let us suppose his full-throated laugh
Less repulsive to the crabbed husband,
Let us suppose his swinging strides
Less of an insult to the half-alive scarecrow
Of the neighboring fields:
Let us suppose him less fermenting to hate.

Let us suppose that there had been
In this tiny forgotten parish, among these lost bayous,
No imperative need
Of preserving unsullied,
Anglo-Saxon mastery.

Let us suppose....
Oh, let us suppose him alive.

(Opelousas, La.)