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

Anniversary

Early, the city's empty,
almost soundless, still.
The air has a photograph's grain,
a mist that's still deciding
whether to rise or fall,
and again, we're walking
down Dexter, drawn like the water
in Court Square's fountain,
in Hebe's offered cup,
as if our legs, our arms remember
some traffic and follow it here
on another Sunday like a traveler,
a rider on a bygone bus,
taking the route for one's own,
no matter what crowd,
what confrontation.
History, memory, we know
the photographs so well
we almost expect the riots
where the Greyhound station's
been made a museum of itself,
what was reflected
now etched on the windows, the froth
of clubs and chains, even rakes,
over the Freedom Riders
and reporters, throwing luggage,
bottles, crates, cameras,
images evaporating into air,
until all movement stilled —
Jim Zwerg limp
and bloody as the dying Christ,
John Lewis, William Barbee
slumped in the street,
and Seigenthaler, who tried
to stop this, beaten down
and shoved beneath his car,
the police just blocks away.
Whenever water's broken
water moves to mend,
to fill what's missing.
So, Floyd Mann, you came
to quell, though warned away,
alone against the mob,
and solitary still at the bedsides
of the beaten, weeping
over their wounds
and your only two epaulettes,
only one badge. Virgina Durr,
you were there, across the street,
hand to the window,
light brutal as it could be,
burning through your skin.
You're still there. And Bob Zellner,
you are walking free
so that when we come
anger's not the only place to stand.

Be with us now
so we can walk away,
against the traffic, if it comes,
up Washington,
through the grainy air,
and let this be a kind of justice,
coming in the place you made,
however late,
and let this memory
be a kind of no,
polished now with all its bright
and all its dark,
and maybe the rain will fall
like the water
of this fountain,
which fills the letters
of every near-forgotten name,
grooves just wide enough
to press a finger to.
When water's broken
water moves to heal.

Maybe we're drawn
by the water of our bodies,
the water in our lungs,
which knows these waves,
however long, however low.
So we come again,
each of us
a wake returning
to comfort the water
and then the shore.

"Anniversary" has not been published before.

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