Louisa County Patrol Claims, 1770–1863
I pry open the files, still packed
with liquor & strange brine.
Midnight seeps from the cracks
slow pulp of arithmetic. Four or five
or six at a time, the white men draw
along the Gordonsville Road, on foot
or on horseback, clustered close—
each man counting up his hours, the knife
of each man’s tongue at the hinge
of his own mouth. For ninety-three years
& every time I slip away to read
those white men line the roadway
secreting themselves in the night air
feeding & breathing in their private
column. Why belly up to their pay stubs
scraping my teeth on the chipped flat
of each page? This dim drink only blights me
but I do it.
Copyright © 2020 by Kiki Petrosino. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 4, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.