Camille T. Dungy
- What a herd of slaves Jackson brought in last month.
- No sooner had their strength returned
- after the long march to the farm from Lynchburg
- but they began to plot another run.
- We didn’t know they’d planned to leave
- until they were already gone a day.
- All manner of neighborhood men
- came around to tip Jackson’s whiskey
- and help him on the hunt, though
- all they brought back for their trouble
- were two bodies. One dead,
- one fighting off living. That boy
- I told you about, Ben with the slashed cheek?
- At the stony fork of the river
- Doc Jackson found his body, cut up,
- twisted as if it had fought long
- under water, a dead hand pointing
- in the direction his netted sister and the “damned
- lost lot of niggers” had run. I guess
- he was too obstinate even for the water
- to hold down easily. Jackson used Ben
- like a scarecrow, his shirt hooked on a pole,
- his body meant to warn us from the road.
- Lila’s still not certain that the girl will live.
- Until tomorrow, I am ever your Joe.
Camille T. Dungy is the author of the poetry collections Smith Blue; Suck on the Marrow; and What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison. She edited Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry, and co-edited the From the Fishouse poetry anthology. Her honors include an American Book Award, two Northern California Book Awards, a California Book Award silver medal, and a fellowship from the NEA. Dungy is a professor in the creative-writing department at San Francisco State University.