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

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