Frank X Walker
Thelma de la Beckwith
He would come home
from evening rallies and secret meetings
so in love with me
I could never see nothing wrong
with what he did with his hands.
I just pretended I didn’t know
what gunpowder smelled like
or why he kept his guns so clean.
If he walked through that door
and said, “Thelma, burn these clothes.”
I’d pile them on the coals and stare
at the fire. I’d listen to the music
twix the crackle and calm as we danced.
And while the ashes gathered ‘round
they own kind in the bottom of the grate
I’d watch the embers glow like our bedroom did.
Now, I ain’t saying he was right or wrong.
He often confused hatred with desire.
But if you ain’t never been licked
by flames in the middle of the night
honey, you got no idea what I’m talking about.
Myrlie Evers speaks to Thelma de la Beckwith
My faith urges me to love you.
My stomach begs me to not.
All I know is that day
made us sisters, somehow. After long
nervous nights and trials on end
we are bound together
in this unholy sorority of misery.
I think about you every time I run
my hands across the echoes
in the hollows of my sheets.
They seem loudest just before I wake.
I open my eyes every morning
half expecting Medgar to be there,
then I think about you
and your eyes always snatch me back.
Your eyes won’t let me forget.
We are sorority sisters now
with a gut wrenching country ballad
for a sweetheart song, tired funeral
and courtroom clothes for colors
and secrets we will take to our graves.
I was forced to sleep night after night
after night with a ghost.
You chose to sleep with a killer.
We both pledged our love,
crossed our hearts and swallowed oaths
before being initiated with a bullet.
”Killing that nigger gave me no more inner discomfort than
our wives endure when they give birth to our children.”
-Byron de la Beckwith
Like them, a man can conceivean idea,
an event, a moment so clearly
he can name it--even before it breathes.
We both can carry a thing around inside
for only so long and no matter how small
it starts out, it can swell and get so heavy
our backs hurt and we can’t find comfort
enough to sleep at night. All we can think
about is the relief that waits, at the end.
When it was finally time, it was painless.
It was the most natural thing I’d ever done.
I just closed my eyes and squeezed
then opened them and there he was,
just laying there still covered with blood,
(laughs) but already trying to crawl.
I must admit, like any proud parent
I was afraid at first, afraid he’d live,
afraid he’d die too soon.
Funny how life ‘n death
is a whole lot of pushing and pulling,
holding and seeking breath;
a whole world turned upside down
until somebody screams.
“Pastoral scene of the gallant south…”
-Billie Holiday (Strange Fruit)
Byron de la Beckwith
Sometimes it starts with a bonfire
or begins with taunting and spitting
quickly graduating to cursing and
punching and kicking some
body as hard as you can
for the sheer joy of causing them pain
as entertainment for the crowd now
celebrating the crack or pop of broken
bodies, showering outstanding individual
violence with applause and cheers.
All you need is some body wearing
the color you’ve been taught to hate
some body threatening to take
what’s rightfully yours
and a little girl with her thighs exposed
held high in the air and screaming.
-poem is from No More Fear: The Rebirth of Medgar Evers.