Wilmington 1898

You are Anglo-Saxons…Go to the polls tomorrow, and if you find the negro out voting, tell him to leave the polls and if he refuses, kill him, shoot him down in his tracks. We shall win tomorrow if we have to do it with guns.

--Alfred Moore Waddell

We return then to the bleached the broken

sands and hear again an echo learned is lost.

Then west four hundred miles a smoke 

of warning would rise/During these instances,

chemical changes which would require decades

herein spend scant seconds/how spilt the scraps of time?

 

Shadows hang much heavier this year. Rich sores from our fountains

running thin pressed for blessings. No personal order to this inheritance,

that we would arsenic our embryos someday. The storm scorns us our choices,

rains thunder to our unweighting of benefits. No prayer will yield the way.

 

We the divisible, a complex of occasions,

We, amnesiacs in our skin, calloused thicker

than the entire printing press of papers. A light

the arson scene and fled: They left their stench there,

amid the scores of dead composite strained red

clay lined in time from under seams. How do you

dig up these sounds? And we the born of boiler slag,

there all compelled combined in now a hundred sixteen year:

 

Then may they all be struck down blind on the road of their escape

Then may these unbraced visions fall and Then the settling of a seed

Then these stones may germinate Then grow out from their mistakes

Then to our geography’s perimeter our doors would crack for wounded strangers

Then through these unspeaking answers we see a swell of memory

 

Then this the consequence

Then an uprising/a defense

that we might be

 

 

 

 

Photo from the 1898 Wilmington Coup, of the local newspaper destroyed by rioters. Image from  the General Negative Collection, North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, NC and available at https://www.flickr.com/photos/north-carolina-state-archives/5908639196/in/album-72157627005387837/.