(May 2, 1964)
Mississippi owls commence to sing:
” ‘Tis spring, Henry Hezekiah Dee. Charles Eddie Moore, ‘tis spring. ”
Butterflies sleep in the pines. Meadville. Hellhounds prowl for prey.
Hitchhikers –young, gifted, black—are forbidden to yawn at break of day.
Their growing beautiful shall be dispatched this night too soon.
In the moondust forest, pink men and dirty white boys,
drunk with supremacy, couraged with the stench of burning crosses in their stony hearts,
vow to make this site the devil’s sanctuary, the scene for rites of spring.
Troll gods in the South must have blood. Franklin County must have blood.
Hot switchblades, oily ropes, rusty chains, virgin two-by-fours
rebaptize and exorcise the hitchhikers —the young, the gifted, the black—dragged
back through the obscenity in Satan’s circle where imps of hatred, hellhounds
torture “negras” and bark for them to pray
a blasphemed prayer.
Trees bear strange fruit. Trees. Witnesses.
Shattered bones. Sliced flesh. Disarticulated tendons and muscles.
Fractured skulls and bones. Bleeding eyes. Bleeding eardrums. Testimony.
Bits of intestines ground like civil rights into the dirt. Suddenly,
frustration begets a bright notion. Export the not-dead evidence. To Louisiana.
Drown it in the river. Let it book passage forever in the ark of bones.
Let another state be blamed. Let Mississippi’s ritual murders not be shamed.
“ ‘Tis spring, Henry Hezekiah Dee. Charles Eddie Moore, ‘ tis spring.”
For forty-six years the owls sing, until Truth drops the mask and validates
what decomposed bodies surface to make plain.
Crime does not die like men. Our eyes are watching the ways of God.
We who have ancient memories are least surprised when Justice, however late, rises
by fortune of law, reaffirming in splendor the rainbow’s sign.
Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore you are now free
To relift your voices and sing: “ ‘Tis spring, ‘tis forever spring.”
Jerry W. Ward, Jr.
July 31, 2010