At my picture window, I raise the blinds
On the graveyard side. And, it’s you, July,
Lovely ghost? Not changed much since you were ten.
That’s how old I was when Pap George sold me
To Seth Woodall. I was thin as a seam,
Fearless, too; Runaway? Not so bold, see?
The politicians locked into bad laws
Your beautiful face; in their rows on rows.
Their fields prospered from preconceived windflaws.
Come to the window; let me see your face.
I died at thirty-three. I must now pause
To wonder why I left the world in haste.
Documents at the Heritage Center:
One of your last names was Stephens, to place
You on Paul’s Hill. That fact marks history’s
Rendering of the closeness of our names.
I wish your family had marked our graves
Here in the back part of the burying ground.
I know: looks like we Stephensons used deceit,
Doesn’t it? Sorry. As a boy I found
I knew slavery was wrong. Economics?
I reckon. I can’t get it straight either.
Color of skin comes in, but not for keeps.
We keep trying to be human beings.
To be considered property’s a thought
I abhor. Your legacy’s a breather
Future families may ponder without.
Yes getting caught up in prejudices.
The whites lie on the road-side, blacks, weed-caught.
I like it back here. The woods I can see.
You were named for the month you were born in.
Each syllable should be stressed with the same
Emphasis, Ju-ly, though I feel your lean –
I lean toward you, too; let’s sing our praises.
You, as spokesman for my life between then
And now: look on my grave next spring: daisies.
Limboed, let me be swept away on water.
Let my last anthem be to sing of Florence,
Her flouncing dresses, blossom-flights; otherwise they
Let me recall what Maybelle Carter sings of
The meaning: the storms ram the oceans, revving
Havoc in their violation of
Their own abandon.
Let me imagine oceans in those diamonds,
Hearing them splash: “Sweet Florence, dear woman, who’s
That playing on Hugo’s lyre?” and lashing,
Hugo’s words: “Damn it,
That Florence, at her purging avocation,
Slams flat the window-trees down, and blows the limbs of
A spleen-child. What Strom Thurmond did to color,
What Thomas Wolfe did
To Asheville, what poor Ben did to timing.”
Let me, okay, give novels some company,
Remembering that brotherly love’s a win when
Wrenched from Nature’s space.
Better than wind is the gathering idle,
The milk’s sour clabbering, the hoagie sandwich,
The froth curdling in the pipes and groaning
In the cleaning up.
For this world, after fall, the winter cold that
Prompts desire wistfully, and fire, the hearthstone,
If not the most flaming of burns, does warm us
Outright, if made good.
Saying Goodbye To Florence Is Filled With Mud
The taste on my tongue
Is the taste of rust on the barn-door’s hinges.
The wind is gone, gone, gone, gone, gone, gone.
How to bring it back – my singing?
Last night I dream I’m sleeping in mud.
The more that I sleep, the faster my song
Sinks up and over my boots in a feud.
My head tosses my follicles frolicking with long
Departed relations, no Mother or Dad or Brother Paul.
So cool he was, like real green cucumber.
He said things like, “You blow me away”; never bored,
He’d rub his fingers over his head as bald
As the blaze on the crown of Native Dancer,
As if he were a comedian poising to stall.