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

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