Tobacco, Colonization, Broke
White rocks at the end of a driveway means that
whoever lives there is in the Klan.
This is not a poem, it's a warning,
so that if you ever get lost in my county
you don't go knocking on the wrong doors.
Come to my house instead.
I will sit you down at my kitchen table,
make you sausage gravy and biscuits,
and after take you down to
the swimming hole at the turn of the river,
where you will inevitably fall and
stain the knees of your jeans with
red mud. You'll need something to
remember me by, and better this color
than anything else;
(red, like hearts and lungs)
A Brief History of Tobacco In Virginia
Tobacco was everything,
especially why the state
owned the most slaves in the Union
throughout the 1860’s.
From Booker T. Washington's autobiography Up From Slavery:
“I was born a slave on a plantation in Franklin County,
Virginia. I am not quite sure of the exact place or
exact date of my birth, but at any rate I suspect I
must have been born somewhere and at some time.
The Society For the Colonization of Free People of Color of America
(we do not want you here)
Colonization: their performance of your performance, earnestly.
And this vague god
never tires of its mangled dreams
Survival easy enough now to have a glamour about it.
At least the evil
kept the devil away.
I don’t care
how many died
I just want
to spread this truth--
I cannot fathom it.
The rhetoric was bricks or a piss-poor support,
depending on the building
it was building over.
Most of us aren’t sure who we’re murdering for.
There are things I do not wish to know.
There are black holes I do not wish to play in.
From a letter from Booker T. Washington to Essie Smith,
September 15, 1905:
“Your suggestion that I make a contribution for a Confederate monument,
to be erected on the Court House Square of the County seat of Franklin,
I confess touches me most deeply.
I have never visited the county of my birth since I left there when a small boy,
though I have been hoping to do so for some time. I shall hope however
to have the pleasure of visiting Franklin at some time in the future.”
The Sharpness of Being Broke
the fracture of homelessness.
the ghosting settlement
hostile on all sides.
a place to place the embarrassments that smuggled up your back
and down into your roots,
as if by accident.
the vagueness of placelessness:
one’s identity fragmented
into slivers of glass underfoot
and the impossible reality
Big performers acting you into submission.
The fragmentation of audience and actor--
benefactor at gunpoint.
Performing the performance of them against us
dirt farmer tyrant makes dirt farmer tyrant makes dirt farmer tyrant
holding the next against the wall.
The impossibility of the desired performance
when the money will never arrive.
The salt water swallowed more than a few lungs
reprogramming them to fail.
When I was thirteen, a drunk redneck crashed
into the front of the county courthouse.
The Tribute to the Confederate Dead
was smashed to pieces on the lawn.
They replaced it, because they had to.
Here, there's only one war worth discussing.
I learned white privilege early,
in some rudimentary Appalachian way:
my mother told me that white people were meaner,
and white people with money were the meanest.
I will burn your throat with moonshine
we can sit on my porch and look at
the way the stars swallow the sky
pass this jar between us until you feel like
you've actually got moonlight in your blood.
It's a glow, a warmth, like you can drift
weightless into the sky or the darkness of woods,
and it'll slur and soften your words