July 19, 1850
Even though this winter I heard the white ones claim the snow
covered earth spins,
I know it will never spin quick enough to unbraid the brine-soaked hemp
binding my wrists behind my hips to keep my fingers
from the knot necklacing my throat.
If only the cord were some conjure, copperhead’s skin or weave of root.
Last night beyond my cell’s scorched plank walls, a whip-poor-will ghosted
his honeysuckled cry among the graves above Broad Run.
Beneath my naked feet I feel the north wind shiver the scaffold that holds me
high above the white-faced flock,
each watcher’s eyes glazed dead as those of a slaughtered hen,
after the axe has lifted away.
Last night I dreamed my body feathered, jigged headless, across the butcher’s yard.
Look, beyond all these white faces, in the run’s hollow, crows worry the flood-killed sycamore——-
where Abram showed me the fish-hawk gnawing a shad,
the way it’s talons lost light before piercing illuminated scales. The gutted roe pearled red,
dripped to my open palm from the branch tied with a rope
for swinging out across the water to fall
Listen. In the crowd I hear someone who reads from a bible. I can’t remember
what to sing.
A noise like a rifle. Spinning. White
This is not the way it happened.
There was no song.
even in July heat.
Her feathers were stolen.
The only bird
ungainly in summer
air, and on one remaining
a solitary sprig of green.