Change the Joke ||| Mandala Journal

“I know, you thought I was colored didn’t you?”
“Change the joke and Slip the Yoke,” Ralph Waldo Ellison

my father was a practical man
never mentioned slavery or
‘isms, opted to believe in god
and not King’s futile Theory
of Fair Play nor dreamt aloud
about justice. built his own
field of play, wheeled his goal posts
about to suit himself, his rewards
inverse, immaterial, ironical.

my father was a jeweler
handled the stuff of other people’s
dreams and broken dreams
in diamonds and gold 24k
never much captivated by
the trinkets he made or polished
to sell, seemed immune to such greed
his brilliants bred in others–

invisible man daring the bad-ass
streets of Chi with your $20 satchel
of incognito gold and go-between,
your re-soled shoes unworthy
of pimp or patriarch, just a
Mississippi Negro strolling State
& Madison like it was your own
Tobacco Road, yokeless.


Opal Moore is the author of Lot’s Daughters. Her poems and stories are published in online and print journals including The Notre Dame Review, Callaloo, The Connecticut Review, Mandala Journal, PoemMemoirStory, and anthologies, including Honey, Hush! An Anthology of Black Women’s Humor. Beyond the page, Moore has worked on a series of collaborative internationally-focused performance projects with other artists including The Delfina Project with painter Arturo Lindsay and others. The performance included original poetry, dance, and the commissioning of an original “sound text” by jazz musician, Joe Jennings, based on a Senegalese folk song. Moore is Associate Professor of English at Spelman College and Director of the E.W. Githii Honor’s Program. She is a Fulbright Scholar, a Cave Canem Fellow, a Dupont Scholar, Bellagio Fellow, and a mentor to her student poets and writers.

Change the Joke” originally appeared in Exodus, the 2011-2012 Issue of Mandala Journal.