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

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