This is Not the Worst

A poem by Louie Crew Clay


The worst is not

when someone shouts, “Nigger!”

or “Poor White Trash!” or “Black Lezzie!”

or burns down your tenement

or paints “QUEER!” on your new car

or sends insinuating letters

to your boss,

or comes for the eviction.

Those times quicken our sense of worth,

spark righteous indignation.

Those are the times

our liberal friends like,

so they can vicariously

bloat our pain

all the way back

to their quiet studies

or freeze us eternally

into something beautiful,

in a painting or a poem.

Those of us who can fight back,

who can tell the bombers

“We won’t recant,”

who can face the snarling dogs

or the heckling children,

who can elocute shared dreams,

are the lucky ones.

Unwittingly we obscure

the harsher truth

that for most folks

injustice won’t go away,

but sticks around

like a withered limb

or a human vegetable.

Louie Crew Clay, 80, an Alabama native, is Professor Emeritus at Rutgers. He and Ernest Clay, his husband for 42 years, live in East Orange, NJ. As of today, Clay has written 2685 published manuscripts. The most recent is Letters from Samaria:  The Prose and Poetry of Louie Crew Clay, with a foreword by Phyllis Tickle and an afterword by Bishop Mary Glasspool (NYC, Morehouse, 2015). In addition to his PhD, Clay has received honorary doctorates from three Episcopal Seminaries. He has been a fellow at the Ragdale Foundation and at the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation. The University of Michigan collects Clay’s papers.

See his Wikipedia page here, or reach him by email at

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s