White Flour

Memphis, Tennessee People keep asking at shows where they can get a copy of my poem, White FlourChristine Kane did me the honor of printing it on her excellent blog a while back, but I guess it’s time I added it to my own. By the way, I just got word that it will be published in Friends Journal in June.    


The day was bright and sunny as most May days tend to be

In the hills of Appalachia down in Knoxville, Tennessee

A dozen men put on their suits and quickly took their places

In white robes and those tall and pointed hoods that hid their faces

Their feet all fell in rhythm as they started their parade

They raised their fists into the air, they bellowed and they brayed

They loved to stir the people up, they loved when they were taunted

They didn’t mind the anger, that’s precisely what they wanted


As they came around the corner, sure enough, the people roared

They couldn’t quite believe their ears, it seemed to be… support!

Had Knoxville finally seen the light, were people coming ‘round?

The men thought for a moment that they’d found their kind of town

But then they turned their eyes to where the cheering had its source

As one their faces soured as they saw the mighty force

The crowd had painted faces, and some had tacky clothes

Their hair and hats outrageous, each had a red foam nose


The clowns had come in numbers to enjoy the grand parade

They danced and laughed that other clowns had come to town that day

And then the marchers shouted, and the clowns all strained to hear

Each one tuned in intently with a gloved hand to an ear

“White power!” screamed the marchers, and they raised their fisted hands

The clowns leaned in and listened like they couldn’t understand

Then one held up his finger and helped all the others see

The point of all this yelling, and they joined right in with glee


“White flour!” they all shouted and they felt inside their clothes

They pulled out bags and tore them and huge clouds of powder rose

They poured it on each other and they threw it in the air

It got all over baggy clothes and multi-colored hair

All but just a few of them were joining in the jokes

You could almost see the marchers turning red beneath white cloaks

They wanted to look scary, they wanted to look tough

One rushed right at the clowns in rage, and was hauled away in cuffs


But the others chanted louder marching on around the bend

The clowns all marched on too, of course, supporting their new friends

“White power!” came the marchers’ cry — they were not amused

The clowns grew still and thoughtful; perhaps they’d been confused

They huddled and consulted, this bright and silly crowd

They listened quite intently, then one said “I’ve got it now!”

“White flowers!” screamed the happy clown and all the rest joined in

The air was filled with flowers, and they laughed and danced again


“Everyone loves flowers, and white’s a pretty sort

I can’t think of a better cause for marchers to support!”

Green flower stems went flying like small arrows from bad archers

White petals covered everything, including the mad marchers

And then a very tall clown called the others to attention

He choked down all his chuckles, then said “Friends I have to mention

That with all the mirth and fun today it’s sort of hard to hear

But now I know the cause that these strange marchers hold so dear


“Tight showers!” the clown bellowed and he hit his head in wonder

He held up a camp shower and the others all got under

Or at least they tried to get beneath, they strained but couldn’t quite

There wasn’t room for all of them— they pushed, but it was tight

“White Power!” came their marchers’ cry, quite carefully pronounced

The clowns consulted once again, then a woman clown announced

“I’ve got it! I’m embarrassed that it took so long to see

But what these marchers march for is a cause quite dear to me…”


“Wife power!” she exclaimed and all the other clowns joined in

They shook their heads and laughed at how erroneous they’d been

The women clowns were hoisted up on shoulders of the others

Some pulled on wedding dresses, shouting “Here’s to wives and mothers!”

The men in robes were angry and they knew they’d been defeated

They yelled a few more times and then they finally retreated

And when they’d gone a black policeman turned to all the clowns

And offered them an escort to the center of the town


The day was bright and sunny as most May days tend to be

In the hills of Appalachia down in Knoxville, Tennessee 

People joined the new parade, the crowd stretched out for miles

The clowns passed out more flowers and made everybody smile

And what would be the lesson of that shiny southern day?

Can we understand the message that the clowns sought to convey?

Seems that when you’re fighting hatred, hatred’s not the thing to use

So here’s to those who march on in their big red floppy shoes

(based on true events of May 26, 2007 – ©2007 David LaMotte)

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8 Comments on “White Flour”

  1. sarah Says:

    brilliant! wish I could have seen it.

  2. lowerdryad Says:

    Yeah – me too! 😉 I wrote the poem from an article I read, and later had the details confirmed by a clown who was there that day. Good stuff.

  3. bchboy1 Says:

    Thank You this is the best way to wage war against stupidity

  4. Diane Martin Says:

    Jennifer had finally gotten me a copy so I could hear the end of it. It is truly awesome and I, too, wish I could have seen it in person. Hope you all are well. It was so great to see you in Santa Fe. Diane

  5. joycets684 Says:

    That is one of the best things I have read in a long time.
    I love it.

    Is there music to it? (yet?)
    Maybe I’ll find some………………………

  6. Erika Says:

    You might be curious to know that this excellent poem is making the rounds in viral email, with great reception, and has made its way all the way to Australia. I’m an American ex-pat living here in Melbourne, and with dear friends in Knoxville this hits home. I’m not the sentimental type, but this brought tears to my eyes. Way to go, clowns–That’s the way to change the world. And thanks for the excellent presentation of the story in this poem–Its good writing will make it all the more likely to be a lasting lesson, rather than just a whimsical news story. Much appreciated.

  7. Fantastic telling of a great tale! In my mind, it had a sort of “Devil Went Down To Georgia” musical accompaniment. I’ve forwarded it on to many folks…

  8. Hey, I just read this on my radio show, as part of my evening of poetry & music that highlights creative & nonviolent reactions to asshattery. FMI on the show, see http://www.myspace.com/patchworkmajority

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