For Pops

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For Pops

 

He tells me stories 

Tales from the deep south 

Bout how a raccoon 

Can whip a dog in the water 

I learn how to fell a tree 

So it lands just right 

 

I listen to his mama 

Cook 3 meals a day for 8 

May be that’s why he feels so special 

When you make him something little 

Like a sandwich 

 

I hear the sound of sitting on the porch 

With a rifle 

I hear his heartbeat 

And a drop of sweat trickle off his brow 

 

I hear a murder of Jim Crows 

Pass over the family home 

Sisters in the house 

Threshold blessed with his own 

Blood toil and prayers 

 

He leads me to a field of memories 

Plowing behind a mule at 8 

We go to cane mills 

Remove the slag of the top as 

Millstone rolls with the clop of a work horse 

Juicing sweetness 

I hear how to keep my fingers 

 

I listen to the weight of a 65 pound 

Basket of cotton on the back of a child 

Who counts pennies for  bullets and shot 

To hunt some rabbits or quail for supper 

Not a deer 

He never could bring himself to kill one 

 

I listen to these stories 

From the one person who gave me safety  

When I was with child 

And needed protection from the world 

A world whose cruelty he knows too well 

 

He was good at security with his 

Strong black 6 foot who knows what body 

That escaped the draft  

But has fought battles of his own 

 

I know where his boys raised  

Sent to college 

Seen on TV in athletics 

I know from whence they came 

Great grand children of 

Two preachers children 

Who raised a family 

On 40 acres and a mule 

In Mississippi 

 

For a few that tale is true 

Walnut and peach trees 

Cornbread and collard greens 

BBQ and fish fries 

Ham hocks and poke salad 

Runs in their veins 

Just like dominoes and spades 

 

He is the great migration 

From southern farm to northern factory 

I’ve learned a person passes out 

When their arm is mangled in a meat grinder 

Up to here 

 

I’ve heard the pain of living a long life 

Filled to the brim with dead loved ones 

He knows more hurt and dead people  

Than friends I could name 

He speaks to me of people he names 

 

HIs cousin at 80 stabbed 13 times 

By her grandson 

And how she’s still living 

People drowned in the Mississippi 

Killed in the war 

 

Nephews in and out of prison  

For no good reason 

People who died 

On his watch at work 

Died in his home 

His own brother 

 

He says ” I worked every day 

Before work there was work 

And after work there was work” 

 

Pops tells me stories 

Tales from the deep south 

Scenes of raccoons 

Whipping dogs in the water 

And trees felled just right

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