blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1



For Reverend James Reeb
     9 March 1965, Selma, Alabama

The ministers rise from empty plates like the steam
of chicken and greens and puff into coats, prayers,

and then the unlit streets, the night, ready
for tomorrow’s march or gathering or prayers,

and then the dark is beating Hey niggers
though only their coats are black and the night and everything

so they cannot see what’s coming, what hits them,
what clubs or pipes, what feet are kicking

at their ribs, who’s saying Now you know,
now you know what it’s like to be a real nigger.

No one can see what lands, what cracks Reeb’s skull.
No one can see the hairline fracture

or what’s nesting, what’s beating there,
what wings are gathering in his eyes.  

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