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 was with his family in the tobacco since sunrise,
a mob of 200 men thought otherwise and hung him from an old oak at the AME church.
Ed Roach, rise with your hanging rope,
In the red-dawn, his family cut him down and buried him unmarked in the brightleaf.
Friends torched the oak, a black epitaph on the road to town.
Your time lying in the fields is over.
The memorial service is like a shock from a live wire—
a current singeing us all in 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).