Monday, February 15, 2016

On Visiting the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park

On Visiting the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park
Paul Laurence Dunbar 1872 - 1906

The citizens of Dayton Ohio
in conjunction with the national parks
have established a place to nurture the memory
of the Wright Brothers and Paul Dunbar

“We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—“

The only black in his high school year
Paul was elected class president
was the teen-age editor of the Dayton Tattler
friend Orville Wright his publisher

 “With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.”

Crowds flock to the Wilber and Orville stuff
but here at the park interpretive center
the ranger    (a woman of color herself)
seems surprised when asked for the Dunbar film

“I know why the caged bird beats his wing
    Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;   “

And how the words poured out of him
from this young son of southern slaves
into a country not yet ready
for him and his brothers and sisters

 “ And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars   
And they pulse again with a keener sting—“

the world was ready for man to fly
Dayton is left with an air force base
and a hundred years later
                        we are cleaved by the fate
of Paul Dunbar’s brothers and sisters

Frank Kearns
with selections from We Wear the Mask and Sympathy