Between the years of 1882 and 1968,
there were 3445 lynchings of Black Americans.[i]
It has been suggested that the number is underreported.
The morning rose from its vermillion bed
to find no buzzards circling in their wanton
sky. Why would they, when nothing remains,
except the sorrowing bones of a burned tree, its pungent
incense a cry to a God who strains to grant mercy?
Yet everything remains, in the cruel pockets
and purses of the watchers ; a molar here, a
dark earlobe there. Too much, too much.
He was joined by hemp rope in the howling moonlight
to an old poplar, which, out of all the trees, he
had chosen it to give him shade after he had picked
sweating cotton for a nickel- backed day. He rested against
its bark, felt it burrowing into his skin. Closing his
umber eyes, he saw the blue dream of a sky,
his riotous vegetable garden, the flame-red cardinal
blazing past. He inhaled, and the sweetness
of a gardenia wafted through the air. He exhaled,
and felthis own deep slow breath, leaving his lungs,
towards the outer light. And the still, silence
within him sounded, “How beautiful”.
The next morning—with the last cold stars
refusing to shine—rose up to see all that remained.
Only the old weeping poplar, dying, its red heart turning
ashen gray, lay there in the cruel charred claw of the earth,
for he had been born away in flame, there in God’s garden.
[i]Archives at Tuskegee Institute