Hour 1: Swimming in the Heat of 1950s Mississippi


Wednesday was Colored Day

At the Jackson Public Pool


Arriving too late,

All we could see was a rainbow of brown heads

Bobbing up and down in water

Once cool but now heated by bodies

Packed like cargo but

Pressed too close together to lie flat and flay

Through the warmed water


We wore our swim clothes:

(There was no Colored Day

For public toilets or changing places.)

Walking barefoot from the car,

Climbing in

Pushing aside other bodies

Bobbing along the water

Cooling off the sweat

Raining from the relentless sun

Beaming its hate upon our heads


An hour was too long to stay

Walking the bottom of sweat and pee scented water;

No need to carry a towel

When the oppressive sun dried us on the walk to the car

But towels covered the seats

To catch the dirty water


We bathed at home sweet home:

Lying face down in the cool soapy water

Kicking our feet

Imagining what it would be like to swim


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