The notice reads as if Ed Roach died yesterday—
the family asking everyone to celebrate the life of their 24-year-old son.
Oh, plow the red clay, yellowed leaf,
A black man in the county back in 1920, Ed was beaten, shot five times, and strangled
for attacking a white woman on the road to town.
Dig beneath the loblolly and sweet gum,
Though he had been with his family in the tobacco since sunrise,
a mob of 200 men hanged him from the old oak at the AME church.
Ed Roach, rise with your severed noose,
In the red-dawn hours, his family buried him beneath the plow.
That night, the oak, burst into a fiery epitaph on the road to town.
Your time smoldering in the fields is over.
The memorial service is like a shock from a live wire—
a current singeing the county, exposing the simmering rot within.
An earlier version of this poem first appeared in the poetry magazine Better than Starbucks in its May 2019 issue (Vol IV, No. 3).
Categories: Poetry, Selection: 2019
Congrats, Jonathan. What a sad poem.
I agree, it is a sad poem on the state of things, i.e., that a memorial service couldn’t be held until nearly 100 years later. Thanks, Pete, for your comment. Best, Jonathan
Congratulations, Jonathan! This is wonderful news. Great going! Kay
Thank you, Kay! Thank you very much.
Sent from my iPhone
Great, Honathan! ________________________________
This is so cool, Jonathan! The publishing. Your poem is raw … perfect for today’s climate … brings the issues into a bright spotlight.
Amanda K. Ohira
Thanks, Amanda! I was hoping for such a reaction. Your comment is very much appreciated.