Frederick Douglass should have been the first
African American to occupy the oval office,
but America was nowhere near ready
for such a campaign. I can only imagine
how brilliant he was. Born into a world
barely able to accept that he could be more
than chattel, and of course, Martin
Luther King Jr. the unofficial president
of black America—the one who made it
to the mountaintop but not the promised land—
more dynamic and more charismatic than any
officeholder of his day. His ability to mobilize—
frightening; his command of the language—
undeniable. He wielded words like a sword
to pierce the conscience of a nation whose conscience
towards blacks, North and South, had been seared
heart shut, fist tight.

But, now election day’s here,
and I want to make the right decision-not take revenge.
I can’t see the future, and I can’t read his heart.
“Lord, you know I hate politics, but I’m going to vote today.
Protect my choice.” With each step forward, I pray:
“Lord, please let me not be ashamed; let him not be a disgrace.”
I don’t think I’m the only black woman praying
like a mother for her son this morning.

As I enter the church,
I turn to see another black woman, well into her 90s,
being helped into the building, coming up behind me.
The look in her eyes and a smile on her face is one for the ages.
She has an air of one cashing a promissory note long overdue
or, after a long exile, entering the promised land.

Ellen June Wright immigrated from Great Britain and attended school in New Jersey where she teaches. She was a consulting teacher on guides for PBS Poetry Series: Fooling with Words, Poetry Haven, and the Language of Life. She is published in the Princeton Arts Review, Spindrift, Pinyon, The Fourth River, Paterson Literary Review and others.