His father made him work in the hot fields
From sun-up to sun-down
When he was just a lad.
Called him a thin-lipped sissy boy
When he sat by the fire reading Chaucer
A no-good, lazy, son of a—
His mother died when he was nine.
There she lay in the one-room shack
Cold and blue and
Father made him cut the box
Throw the dirt on till the last tear was buried.
In New Orleans he saw them
Fat white men poking at their teeth
Smoking thick cigars
Piling them in wagons with
Sacks of flour and beans.
At Gettysburg he saw the blood
Dark stains that wouldn’t wash away
The pieces of men who lay in tents
The mothers who came to weep over white stones.
What good were words in such a place?
“Our American Cousin” was such a
A frothy diversion from all the pain
But the bullet cut the comedy
The tragedy is not to be denied.
From generation to generation
Lights are extinguished
And darkness threatens
Until some one stoops
To bear the torch.
(Previously published in Mind Fire Poetry Journal, Nov.1999; Liberty Grove Poetry Review, Vol 2, Issue 19, Aug 8,2000; Poets4Peace, Nov.2000)