I knew he was black
before I saw him at the IHop
with his white buddy.
I knew, not from some jargon
or accent formed in the heat of the Delta
but from his deep, resonant, soul laugh
survivor of water, manacles and whips.
They sat assessing teams, statistics
and the possibility of season championships
the way their grandfathers once discussed
rain, tillage and the future price of cotton in the bale.
Somewhere in between,
they stopped saying “Suh” and “Boy”
and call each other