25 June 2019

Man to Jesse, Waco, 1916, a poem by Rethabile Masilo

So you’re back from the kiln—a-tellin' folks
in every way on the street with a hoot
about that killin'—how we forgot death
lasts longer than life, your fingers down
to their bare bones, boy, both testicles
sawed off. And you're here again?
We’ve always been right about you niggers.
Black, darkie, gator-baiting coons—
you know it against the shape
and substance of your head, don’t you now,
boy? But this has no habit of happening,
people have not been known to return from the dead,
and Bosque River to mope, dragging
the crimson magma of its load.
Some say at certain points along its road
that river will have to be god dammed,
so maybe nigger people will make a stand,
one day, even if they never stopped doing so.
But Jesse was still looking at folks milling about
the sacrificial shrine, poking the ashes
for some sign of deliverance,
like treasure hunters at a rubbish tip.

Jesse Washington was lynched
in Waco, Texas on 15 May 1916

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