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