Hate is a wasteful emotion.
—Medgar Evers, Sergeant, United States Army (Germany & France) 1943-1946
After thirty years, delayed justice
convicts de la Beckwith of the murder
of Medgar Evers, Mississippi black
man, martyr, whose spilled blood
washes over lush cottonwood green,
leaving a widow with a three-year-old child.
At thirty-one, Medgar's youngest boy,
born in a culture of injustice,
watches in an autopsy room as a copper green,
corroded coffin, exhumed, opens to a murdered
man, reveals, intact, the bloodless
body of his father, at peace, his black
face mirroring this grown child's age and blackness.
Son is father, father is son.
The child played on a driveway stained with blood,
where the father's ghost never knew justice.
For the child the father has been so long dead,
that in this tear-humid room, the inexperienced
son experiences his father's physical, young
self as if for the first time. His perfect black
body, lifeless, yet defying death,
offers solace for a wounded child—
a son learning of slow justice
bought with precious blood.
At five I ride a Southeastern Stages bus past silent, red
clay hills, my father driving, see blurred pine
scenery outside Monroe, Georgia, where injustice—
1946, the year I was born — lynched a black
veteran at Moore's Ford Bridge. Naive child,
I know nothing yet of race and death.
Crawfordville, Greensboro, Monroe, my father's dead-
pan voice names our stops, never speaking of the blood,
as I worship him through the window of my childhood.
I roll along on a two-lane highway through emerald
hills toward Atlanta, past Taras, shanties. Black
faces in the back of the bus laugh (adjusted
to the injustice, the fear-ruled lives,
smothering dark tales of spilled blood),
as the green world rushes past a white child.
Copyright © Lynne Barnes, all rights reserved.