In 1955 Mississippi with your brushed out pin curls, you
were young wife, mother, retailer, and pin-up prospect,
someone who made hearts rush after one look,
not unlike the Black Bayou to the Mississippi.
If he saw that and forgot his place, I understand —
Only a dead man disregards a beautiful woman;
But a boy thinking himself close enough to man,
albeit an inferior one in your books, he noticed you
that summer, that other woman’s boy, remember?
I think of him sometimes, the rascal, and
of his mama, because whatever he said to you,
that wellspring of hate you called up
erupted and changed their existence forever,
and changed many others besides.
Do you think of that time?
That fourteen year-old boy?
That widowed mother?
Behind your closed doors, perhaps?
Can you leave his mangled body behind?
How? How do you stop the knocks that sound
every sixty seconds, or every sixty minutes,
or in whatever interval your ghosts call?
You don’t have to be interviewed, as you refuse,
You don’t have to explain your role, or your husband’s,
You have the honour of opening and closing doors —
doors that judge nobody, whether
that body is inherently honourable, or not; whether
that body enjoys a high quality of life, or not; whether
that body is a christian in word and deed, or not.
But when that door gets out of the way,
the sun pokes about like Ed the interviewer —
around the cold nooks created since 1955 when
Mississippians unable to condemn,
blacklisted your family’s shop,
They still want to know how you could kiss publicly
your husband after he and his buddy got off scot-free,
and as if that wasn’t injury enough, collected a fine fee
and sold the mortifying story of how in a barn one night
they tortured that woman’s only child, and how they smiled
when a jury of their peers could not see past the cover up, or
past their layers of prejudice and superiority complex.
But doors — doors do not condemn the living or the dead;
I expect, in varied frames, doors actually offer consolation
regular consolation: day after day, year after year;
The panels, however, cannot atone;
That is for you and your children alone
now that your husband and his pride are dead and gone.