Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2018  Vol. 17 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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1912: Hush Harbor
for Robert Johnson
Bluefield, West Virginia

When the sheriff beats him, insisting
he’s guilty, he harmed
a woman this morning—

When she cannot identify, falters,
when the deputy offers him coffee,
a smoke, and leads him to a bare room—

When the deputy says strip, makes him

When the deputy says put these on,
soiled overalls he’s never seen, a loose
shirt, a bandanna, not his, none of it,
but now he roughly fits her description,
now lie overthrows truth, now she cries
it’s him

When the mob howls
on Federal Street—

Sometimes, a man might struggle.
Or lay his body down. Or make
a hush harbor. Or cross the river
and rise to the cliff tops, secret place

under the electric billboards, flashing
letters twenty feet high, now gold,
now green, hideaway where one night
he camped, dreaming the last things

he saw, blue pines
and words made of light—  

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