An interdisciplinary journal about regions, places, and cultures of the US South and their global connections
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  • At Liberty (1961)

    21 September 1961, Liberty, Mississippi

    Everyone will say he drove to the gin
    with a truck full of cotton so he drives to the gin
    and gets in line, and everyone will say
    the congressman pulled in behind him so he gets out
    yelling Herbert Lee I'm not messing with you this time
    and his affidavit will say Lee had a tire iron
    and there are no photographs so there is
    a tire iron and since the congressman will say
    Lee swung at him his hand will grasp the iron
    under the tangle of his own dead weight
    and the congressman will leave and will not
    see him again so he just lies there bleeding
    and no one will touch him so for a time
    he is just a story or a huddle of starlings
    or crows or a cloud of bottle-flies that might
    explode and disappear until the witnesses
    can say he's there and an undertaker can come
    with a hearse from the next county over
    and then he is dead and the congressman can
    tell his story so Herbert Lee will rise
    from his coffin and swing his iron
    and the FBI can come to make him into evidence
    but someone will have roped him into his grave
    so there is no photograph and no one sees
    the cotton boll wicking blood so there is no boll
    only a clear, white negative in the dark
    and a paper that slowly fills with flies.

     

    Published in A Murmuration of Starlings (2008).
    Text may vary slightly from the video reading.

    Published: 1 April 2008
    © 2008 Jake Adam York and Southern Spaces