“Alone” and “The Night After I Stumbled Upon My Blood Owning Slaves”

In Issue 70 by Nancy Meyer

Image
Photo by JNix on Shutterstock

Alone

I hear in jail they beat you

with soap in a sock so the bruises

don’t show. I ride South

on the Greyhound

to Bloody Sunday, Bull Connor,

dog’s yellow teeth. The charter buses,

fiancé Mel’s carpool already left

New York. Now I sit prim

in my navy-blue sheath

as though it will protect me.

Lurch through the night, over

the Mason-Dixon line. Five AM,

rest stop, Macon, Georgia.

Locals leer as I pick at

watery grits, white and slick.

On to Selma, up the rise

of the Pettus Bridge. Tanks

skulk below, slits for windows,

faceless. Soldiers, bayonets. Is this

America? Step off the bus.

Hushed houses, trees lush, lawns trim. Where’s

Little Brown Chapel? I plead under my breath

to a lone black gardener who nods

the direction, stiff as a bird.

Sidewalk slides to clay. Ahead

sign-up tables, food lines. I swirl

into the welcome rumple, a black

and white flock. Join the March, 6 abreast

53 miles, 5 days to Montgomery.

Aint Gonna Let Nobody Turn Us Round.

I sing from my feet, from all our feet.

Talk and sing, arm in arm.

We believe, even though

the National Guard who pockmark

the fields point their guns at us. We

believe even though we sweep for

landmines before camping in the open,

tarps over muddy ground. Glimpse Dr. King,

circles under his eyes. Nursing blisters,

we talk and sing into the night.

Day Two, passing a shack, I hear

the man who lived there was killed

in front of his kids, registering

voters here in Lowndes County.

Matrons limp on, Sunday dresses,

curled-over pumps. School boys wear

starched shirts; only we whites

can afford to be casual.

By the time we press into Montgomery,

half the speeches are over. Every black person

out on their porches cheers us on;

we tromp through their unpaved

mud to Courthouse Square. Martin’s

voice dim on loudspeakers.

Thousands have flown, driven, walked in.

TV cameras, shoulder to shoulder, we sway

We Shall Overcome—but are warned run,

run for the black part of town the minute

the rally’s done. No cops will protect;

the Guard disbanded. Cars of thugs rev

against dispersing crowds, gun barrels braced

on rolled-down windows. That night word spreads,

the Klan killed Viola Liuzzo driving alone

over our chant-filled road.

6 AM, I’m alone on the Greyhound, my silent hum:

Keep Your Eyes On The Prize. They still pull folks

like me off buses into the swamps hanging

with Spanish moss.

The Night After I Stumbled Upon My Blood Owning Slaves

I dream

a gun    fixed to my hand

black barrel           pointing out

metal hot     cries bottled    in its throat

In the dream

my palm open like a platter     pistol presses its steely weight

my wrist   bends back    my fingers                   will not close

In the dream I squall

how did this gun get here    i don’t    believe     in guns

father responds            we’ve always

had it         under the car seat

Still-dreaming mind  scrambles

                       i’ve driven this car for years    my heels so close     to the gap   never   reached

under    never groped

             the dark     felt the handle

In the dream I yell at my family

take this gun     i don’t want it   take it

Violently awake

i shake my wrists, my hands

my fingers

About the Author

Nancy Meyer

Nancy L. Meyer she/her is a 2020 Pushcart nominee, avid cyclist, grandmother of 5 from San Francisco. Recent journals include: New Note, Outcast, Gyroscope, BeZine, Book of Matches, Laurel Review, Sugar House Review. Forthcoming: International Human Rights Arts Festival, Decolonial Passage, Kind of a Hurricane Press, Frost Meadow, Nebraska Poetry Society Open Contest, Black Moon Poetry. In 8 anthologies, including by Tupelo Press, Ageless Authors and Wising Up Press.

Read more work by Nancy Meyer .