blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1



For Lamar Smith
     13 August 1955, Brookhaven, MS

No one sees him cross the courthouse lawn,
the lone black man in the election crowd,

and no one steps from the line and pulls a gun
then slips past the sheriff and the whole white town

and no one disappears into history
covered in blood and gunpowder sulphur

while the old man collapses in wreathes of smoke
and ballots wing in the billow of his fall.

Townsfolk stand in a cigarette cloud, the dead man
under their breath half nightmare, half dream,

heat shimmer wind could blow away.
The poll-list crackles as they walk

and ashes feather from his wounds
like smoke from their mouths when they say the word.  

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