four men, businessmen, down
coon hunting from Helena;
two Fisk men, two Philander,
cussing over old football scores,
humming fight songs, crouched
behind a late-autumn thicket.
on the way back to their Packard,
coonskin full in their sacks,
their bellies full of corn liquor.
and some friends, smiling friends said:
had some trouble round these parts,
aint safe for y’all to be drivin,
you boys better off takin the train.
and when the train was stopped,
their flaccid bodies, like golden calves,
were tossed hand to hand above
a sea of flame-lit grinning faces.
the last alive strained, sweat
and blood in his eyes, to see
his folk, and maybe those friends
as he too was washed away in waves
of human darkness.
wind whispers its prayer
through turning trees, exposing
branch bark like weathered black skin.
wind whispers a voiceless laughter,
echoes of children, lost love and secrets.
an indian summer haunting
this october, haunting
this air expectant.
air, amber at dusk,
amber cabin-light distant
where families struggle to give thanks.
this bitter harvest of bad memories
and broken promises.
bitter harvest as night
and new moon come coffee black,
wind whispering still to heavens.
pack combs the canebreak,
beating for bodies. and hounds,
hydra-headed with wet
noses, sniff the stench. rank,
the whoop, hoot and holler
of dog days and men.
NEGRO DESPERADOS PLAN
MASSACRE, WHITES TAKE ARMS
WHITES OUTSIDE HOOP SPUR, ARKANSAS
UNCOVER GET-RICH QUICK SCHEME
NEGRO “PAUL REVERES” RIDE,
CALL TO KILL ALL WHITE SOUTHERNERS
and thus, the crow’s meat was served.
flightless birds for bloated black
bellies brandish their priggish
swagger along the highway.
smoke thick as nail-clippings
still curling in the morning air.
truth be told:
some words can barely be thought.
some can’t be spoken above a whisper.
that first night, those few
men, farmers all, huddled
in the hollow of their church
and someone let fall “union.”
black dead are numbered.
white dead are named.
Clinton Lee was first
to fall and the call went
from Macon to Milwaukee.
the bloodletting lasted three
days and the court cases,
less than three hours
so only stumps and stubble
of men remain; works done, wishes
undone all lay waste among the rubble.