And They Say

I heard there was a legend
nearby. I only see a Spanish oak.
Neither death nor the sun…
Nature’s Golgotha. Or a green Ragnarok.
A church letting out. A family
vanishing into the block.
I kind of detest the blaze of legend
less pure than simple lies.
It may be gossip’s swiftest
avenue to retooling its alibi
for cruelty…

****************legend has it a man
was lynched, noosed, his flesh charred
unrecognizably as afterbirth,
his clothes tossed to the rags
of history, an oil-soaked, human torch.
His body was a clock
broken by drunken sailors,
slammed against a brick wall, loosening
the memory of pain’s instruments.
Or charts.

He was twisted beneath a limb
preserved in a square on blank street,
the oak still living, serpentine, Gothic,
longer than any accusatory finger.
The family approaches. To read a plaque,
I guess. Naw. The garden fence is only
to protect the tree, maybe,
from pests, locusts, and blank threats.

The victim… blinded…
He was a soldier… his heirs, his relatives…
say this, say that…. Or who says much
beside the steady erosion of tic, tock.
Trace his body in civic sands.
Trace a memorial in the public dust.
This is a Maypole Sunday. Adults
matter less than esplanade children,
kids, at least, matter more than strangers.

Not oak nor ivy could make the tale
charming. Or make a case history isn’t
playground rumor. I shouldn’t say that
anyhow. No matter the last, surviving witness
stands like a testimony which faintly
incriminates: like silences after a death.
It still was a ceremonial killing, I guess.
Pretend the oak tree called for a funeral hush.
Pretend happenstance may someday honor it
like a storm which turns away from a ghost house,

a lull flickering. And they say…
An outline: rumor, legend, gossip is a contour
A profile in sidewalk chalk, a body bag.
None of the skeletal anatomy filled in
or veins. Children with crayons call it colorful.
I heard about a fable woman, conjurer,
slave, though she was real, neither, both,
but I know she was black, no rites
of the fastidious macabre could change that.
Probably talked too much. They say.

A human scarification. Her lips sewn shut.
Guess she was alive, her nasty fibs
punished. Now the story is a retired flag
folded up, but it flaps in the breeze
occasionally it snaps like a pocketbook
the tongue clucks like a pocketbook.
My life beneath the limb of a story
playing a stranger’s
part in a dumbstruck village
is over. The present begs a way to live
************************together here.

 

*

Darryl Lorenzo Wellington is a poet and essayist living in Santa Fe, NM. He is also a journalist who frequently covers race, class, and poverty issues. His poetry has appeared in Boston Review, Chiron Review, Asheville Poetry Review, Pedestal, and other places. His essay “Reality Publishing” was included in the anthology MFA vs. NYC, edited by Chad Harbach.

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