The Tragic Mulatto, or One-Drop Rule* Hits the Silver Screen (ca. 1930)

by M. Ayodele Heath

           Our brave White hero,
upon unveiling his mulatto mistress’s
villainous dark secret, slices
her shadowy wrist; then
in the ultimate sacrifice, pulls it
to his quivering mouth & sucks
                 a single drop
of her Negro blood, enough to become…

a Negro himself! The frenetic Whites
cinema—half in awe, half in disgust—half
applauds our newly-mulattoed hero & his lover’s
fateful walk, hand-in-hand into the darkening
If I could, the green-eyed projectionist thinks,
I would have them


M. AYODELE HEATH is a graduate of the MFA program at New England College. Recipient of fellowships to Cave Canem, Summer Poetry at Idyllwild, and the Caversham Center for Writers & Artists in South Africa, his poems have appeared or are forthcoming in publications such as Crab Orchard Review, The New York Quarterly, Callaloo, Mississippi Review, Mythium, Chattahoochee Review, and the anthology Poetry Slam: the Competitive Art of Performance Poetry. His awards include: a 2009 Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize in Poetry and an Atlanta Bureau for Cultural Affairs Emerging Artist grant. He lives and writes in Atlanta.