One With Others [It was hotter then]

- 1949-2016
It was hotter then. It was darker. No sir, it was whiter. Just pick up a paper.

You would never suspect 66% of the population was invisible. You would

never even suspect any of its people were nonwhite until an elusive Negro was

arrested in Chicago or the schedule for the annual Negro Fair was published or 

a popular Negro social studies teacher was fired for an insubordinate letter to

the superintendent and a spontaneous rebellion sprang up in a Negro classroom

in the form of flying chairs and raggedy books and a pop bottle thrown at a light

fixture, and then, the lists of long long suffered degradations backed up and


       Parades without permits/ Boycotted stores

       Funeral home turned into a Freedom Center

       Kids arrested en masse and put in a swimming pool

       V died during Operation Enduring Freedom

       A bottle a day, she got annihilated/ Two packs a day

       Always preoccupied with last things/ Always a touch eschatological

       Always took a little tabula rasa with her caffeine

       When I asked the neighbor if she knew the woman who lived there in 1969/

       Oh yes she said/ She knew her

       She didn't trust me and I didn't trust her

       I don't blame her though/ Everything

       was so confusing/ She stayed to herself

       She was overwhelmed/ That poor woman...

       She was right/ We were wrong


       They've got souls/ Just like you and me


       The marchers are approaching the town of Hazen

       where not so long ago an earth scraper turned up

       a mastodon skull and a tusk on the military road

       In Big Tree: People are turning in

       Only sure thing were the prices:

       Grown-ups know the cost of a head of lettuce,

       a fryer, a package of thighs; a $500 bag of seed

       covers about 5 acres; it takes 20 square feet of cotton

       for a medium-size blouse; where nothing is planted,

       nothing much grows. The dirt is hard-packed.

       The trees were gone by the first war. The first to go,

       the most marvelous one, the red cypress,

       made beautiful instruments. The fields,

       not gone, but empty. Cotton turned to soybeans.

       Mussels from the river turned to salvage.

       Fishing for tires on the silted-up water.

       Some are left digging an old bur out of their foot.

       Some go up/ Some go down [Big Tree church sign]

       A race-free conversation hard to have back then.

       Back then, the hotdog wagon doubled as a brothel.

       Come again.

       DEAR ABBY,

       I am 11 years old but I know all the facts of life because I live in a dirty

neighborhood. My problem is that in our family we get pregnate quick. My

sister got pregnate when she was 16 just by sitting next to a boy in church. Can

this be?


       No, somebody must have moved.


       People study the dingy chenille clouds for a sign.

       People did what they have done.

       A town, a time, and a woman who lived there.

       And left undone what they ought not to have did.

More by C. D. Wright


A girl on the stairs listens to her father
Beat up her mother.
Doors bang.
She comes down in her nightgown.

The piano stands there in the dark 
Like a boy with an orchid.

She plays what she can
Then she turns the lamp on.

Her mother's music is spread out
On the floor like brochures.

She hears her father
Running through the leaves.

The last black key
She presses stays down, makes no sound
Someone putting their tongue where their tooth had been.


Some nights I sleep with my dress on. My teeth
are small and even. I don't get headaches.
Since 1971 or before, I have hunted a bench
where I could eat my pimento cheese in peace.
If this were Tennessee and across that river, Arkansas,
I'd meet you in West Memphis tonight. We could
have a big time. Danger, shoulder soft.
Do not lie or lean on me. I'm still trying to find a job
for which a simple machine isn't better suited.
I've seen people die of money. Look at Admiral Benbow. I wish
like certain fishes, we came equipped with light organs.
Which reminds me of a little known fact:
if we were going the speed of light, this dome
would be shrinking while we were gaining weight.
Isn't the road crooked and steep.
In this humidity, I make repairs by night. I'm not one
among millions who saw Monroe's face
in the moon. I go blank looking at that face.
If I could afford it I'd live in hotels. I won awards
in spelling and the Australian crawl. Long long ago.
Grandmother married a man named Ivan. The men called him
Eve. Stranger, to tell the truth, in dog years I am up there.

One With Others [Not the mental lethargy in which the days enveloped her]

       Not the mental lethargy in which the days enveloped her

       Nor the depleted breasts not the hand that never knew

       tenderness nor eyes that glistened

       Not the people dragging canvas bags

       through the ragged fields

       Not the high mean whine of mosquitoes

       Not another year of shoe-top cotton

       No more white buck shoes for Henry

       No peaches this year on the Ridge, and no other elevation

       around to coast another mile out of the tank

       No eel in L'Anguille

       Not the aphrodisiac of crossing over

       Not the hole in the muffler circling the house

       Not a shot of whiskey before a piece of bread

       Not to live anymore as a distended beast

       Not the lying-in again

       Not the suicide of the goldfish

       Not the father's D.T's

       Not the map of no-name islands in the river

       Not the car burning in the parking lot

       Not the sound but the shape of the sound

       Not the clouds rucked up over the clothesline

       The copperhead in the coleus

       Not the air hung with malathion

       Not the boomerang of bad feelings

       Not stacks of poetry, long-playing albums, the visions of Goya and friends

       Not to be resuscitated

       and absolutely no priests, up on her elbows, the priests confound you

and then they confound you again. They only come clear when you're on your

deathbed. We must speak by the card or equivocation will undo us.

       Look into the dark heart and you will see what the dark eats other than

your heart

       The world is not ineluctably finished

       though the watchfires have been doused

       more walls have come down

       more walls are being built

       Sound of the future, uncanny how close

       to the sound of the old

       At Daddy's Eyes

       "Pusherman" still on the jukebox

       Everybody's past redacted