An interdisciplinary journal about regions, places, and cultures of the US South and their global connections
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  • Consolation

    If we could take them back,
    swinging by the Little Kitchen's shadow
    on Jefferson Street and waving them in
    as they were, Livingston, Alexander,
    Britt, and York, piling together
    on the back bench seat of some Rambler
    or Packard or 56 Chevy we've found
    just to take them back, maybe
    Boyett, too, maybe Boyett
    in front, beside the wheel, cruising up
    Ripley and Traction Streets
    to Lower Wetumpka Road, past
    the tangle of railroad but not quite
    to Chisolm, if we could be waiting
    in a semi by the road writing
    this poem by a pen-light and waiting
    for Livingston to come with his gun
    and pull us out and take us back
    to the idling car, if we could
    not look at each other until
    the door closes out the moon,
    till the car starts cruising west
    back through the railyards, maybe
    catching Race Street to give the boys
    a tasteless laugh before
    turning north along the L&N,
    if we could take some comfort
    in the eight humming cylinders
    that will pull us to 100
    before they'll notice, if we could
    take their punches and gibes
    and maybe cry and beg for mercy,
    just take them back,
    and not let up when we turn
    onto old 143 toward the river,
    feeling the gentle tug of the engine
    along this levee of a road and maybe just
    catch a wink from each other
    in the rearview as the moon
    clears the trees and lay the needle down
    gunning through the barricades
    and ROAD CLOSED signs
    and up the amputated ramp
    where the bridge should be,
    the bridge where you stood
    that January night, 1957,
    a gun in your side, knowing
    you didn't do a thing, knowing
    the river gives more than a gun, knowing
    how cold and hard the water's
    going to hit, if we could see them
    seeing the bridge is missing,
    feel them feeling this terrible pull,
    if we could take them down, untangle
    their names from ours, maybe
    we could, a minute, rejoice
    that no one will ever fall
    from this height again, no one
    will tangle three months in the river
    and be raised up anonymous
    and accidental, maybe
    we will swim from the wreck
    as no one drowns and stand
    from the water inside our names,
    our names ours at last, this poem
    in our pockets like a charm
    we turn as we walk home again
    gleaming in the delicate light
    of the bright, unfalling stars.

    "Consolation" first appeared in Blackbird and was collected in Murder Ballads
    (Elixir 2005)

    Published: 15 April 2010
    © 2010 Jake Adam York and Southern Spaces