Southern Legitimacy Statement: I’m from Fayetteville, in Northwest Arkansas. Geographically, we’re just barely in the South and are sometimes listed as being in the Southwest – that’s a joke. I was raised with the same stories and myths as everyone else and I am Southern to the bone. But these days I mostly work on telling our local history here – our true history, devoid of false myths, and one that includes everyone’s stories, told as honestly and realistically as possible.
I. Amboseli to Tsavo West
Three hours by black ribbon of road
Amboseli to Tsavo West,
young women roadside showing
their breasts, hoping for money,
rest breaks among the scrub brush and a
Masai village welcoming, friendly,
ground three feet deep in animal dung
flies swarming, in groups on mouths,
around ears, in the corners of
babies’ eyes, mothers selling
trinkets, colorful scarves.
Aggressive males, salesmen,
thrust spears in a semi-circle
by feet, excitement, enticement to sale.
Beyond the road, large Baobab trees,
tops chewed clean and symmetrical
by hungry giraffe.
Kilaguni Lodge, huge, empty,
off season, playful, furry fat hyrax,
scabrous Marabou storks by waterhole.
Mzima Springs – nervous baboon colony,
hippos swimming in water deep and clear.
At dusk, Kilimanjaro, solid, powerful,
unseen energy undiminished in the
fading of the light.
In the quiet of three a.m.,
water buffalo just below and
elephants beyond the lodge
gently touching long trunks,
vocalizing softly through the
stillness of the night.
II. Impotent Tribal God
From the vastness of space
to ocean’s murky floor,
chance or immutable law,
chaos, gravity, grand theory or no
each gap filled, ignorance set aside,
the real omnipotence laid bare for
all to see, omniscience unclear,
omnipresence staggering, capricious,
crushing daily the need for superstition,
uncritical faith, millennial-old allegory and fable,
last death knell loud bell
ringing the demise of your
impotent tribal god.
III. John Brown’s Body
Lies a’moulderin’ in the grave all right,
and well it should, that’s
what happens when, like the
Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain
eighty years later, you’re a
“premature anti-fascist,” or,
were too early, too powerful
in opposition to this different brand of
fascism, the one called slavery.
John Brown was too early, too fierce for the
laissez faire, molly-coddling masses of the
just let nature run its course, it’s dead-slow course.
And the irony is not lost that it was Colonel
Robert E. Lee, still a loyal Union man, who was
sent to pacify old bloody, fanatical John Brown.
Wounded, defeated, they tried him for treason and
hung him from the gallows like the strange fruit
that would be dangling from southern trees for
decades to come. Yes, John Brown
lies a’moulderin’ in the grave all right,
but his harsh courage echoes still
through long wires of unbroken time.
down to us.