Poetry Daily: http://www.poems.com/

Jefferson Davis the Adoptive Father of the Mulatto Jim
Limber Dreams the Freedom of the Negro Will One
Day Be His Freedom

I see the declaration passing from

hand to hand from Washington to Richmond

from horse to horse      from rider to rider

one galloping furiously until

his horse falls dead at the hooves of the next

most trotting      some walking      one paused and let

his fat horse nibble at grass for an hour

while he chatted with a schoolgirl in Maine

the declaration winds through every state

and territory      answering the cries

of the soil for the blood of native sons

now mixed with the soil of distant places

not with each drop      disentangled and brought

home      but with news of my full and uncon-

ditional pardon      which is no answer

and the soil of every state and every

territory      after it has been kicked

or scooped      into the air it      doesnít fall

but floats behind the rider      and much of

the soil beneath it rises to meet it

and itís a cresting wake of dirt and mud

follows the instrument of my freedom

it floats      about six feet above the ground

not as an unbroken stream      but instead

every few yards      there is a small gap

and each      segment of dirt      slowly resolves

into a human shape      from the head down

so that at first clumps of dirt seem to be

falling      but as they fall they spread apart

and branch into arms      then a chest      then legs

then feet      which finally touch the pitted earth

and these dark men march behind      the pardon

neither for any reason      faster nor

slower ever but ever marching at

a mournerís pace      but I see the last      rid-

er is Lincoln      and his horse floats      and breeds

no men      though they come      but they come so slow-

ly      through ruined Virginia      the pardon

reaches me days before the men      who will

kill me      and I begin to plan my life

Shane McCrae


Spring 2017

To view this poem online, visit the Poetry Daily archive at http://www.poems.com/archive.php
View a large-print version of this poem