On Finding ‘Black Judgement’

                        for Nikki Giovanni

By TRISH LINDSEY JAGGERS

POETRY FINALIST

By the front entrance of the small county
library, the “withdrawn” books. This one
a dime. Already on its way out.
In the beginning was the word
And the word was
Death
“Discard” stamped across
her left cheek, the black and white
photograph sneaked inside the back cover,
like it had to. Like it had to. Nikki G’s revolution

“Withdrawn,” shut tight inside
the faded brown-shaded covers. A rebel
flag drawn over the back window of a white
pickup truck parked across two spaces outside
the library, like it was stamped there. Like it had to.
The flag’s reds arrowing in, like blood. Like anemia.

Ten years later, near the eve of Juneteenth.
Nine names withdrawn,
stamped out of the registry
in the South Carolina church
one pale Trojan horse was welcomed into.
There had to be one.

Please, say their names, they say.
Peace be still, Nikki says.
Only the torch can show the way

As kids, we drew in the night air
with sparklers, made circles and crosses of fire,
the dark streaked red. The rings and X’s lingered
like a stain, until we could see them
with our eyes closed, see them insist on staying
alive. Peace be still

I won’t say his name. But it is many. It is death.

Bibles drawn in front of him, the table spread
with words. In the beginning was the deed
And the deed was death
and her words sold for a dime.

Words make dying sound easy.

He is forgiven.
Already. They pray for him, Peace be still
The X drawn over a red-stained heritage
he protects as though someone can take it from him,
as though it could ever be lost, even on purpose.

Inside his red and white cover he stamps
Withdrawn, Withdrawn, Withdrawn
Withdrawn, Withdrawn, Withdrawn
Withdrawn, Withdrawn, Withdrawn.

Then he drives away. He simply drives away.

Say their names for Nikki G. Please, say their names.
The rumblings of this peace must be stilled
be stilled be still.

 

Trish Lindsey Jaggers, author of forthcoming Holonym: a Collection of Poems (Finishing Line Press, February 2016), is an award-winning Kentucky poet, educator, amateur photographer, vintage/antique collector, as well as wife, mother, and grandmother, and has published in numerous literary magazines, journals, books, and anthologies. She makes her home on a small farm in Chalybeate, Kentucky, where she divides her time amongst the quiet spaces nature so abundantly offers, family, collecting, travel, and full-time teaching at Western Kentucky University.


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