Days
—for James Byrd, Jr., lynched June 7, 1998, Jasper, Texas

       I.

Boll weevil in the cotton
Worm in the corn
Devil in the white man
War going on

Dusk
light tucked in
(Chatty flies touching down, ringing sting)
At approaching knife earth
scurries away

Hellhounds howl
mouth open to all
      the civil distance  
              between tongue and fang

Twin rails frail black blood
from a black tree
Pack up your besotted trunk
Pilot,
oh don’t you pilot me



       II.

Memory in
side the humming shell

Threat rising
from the white gourd of a
bullet-riddled skull

Keep a wary eye out
Only got enough of the story to
line me a song

Sign your torn name on these
unsettled pages
Nest there:
vulture
phoenix  
witchbird

This is our labor

Lord,
bend us your ear

Feel a sin coming on
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