That boy from Georgia is coming through here.
they changed curtains waxed floors aired out the front company room sent for camphor to lay throughout the house they cooked all night boiled bath water all day cornbread, okra, turnip salad, stewed chicken, fried chicken, dressing, killed the prized hen, gravy, corn, potatoes, rice, sweet potato custard, lemon pie, rice pudding, coconut cake, chocolate cake, lemonade, and your chittluns, Martin, all for you, Martin. word was given Sunday that you was coming to their comer so they swept dirt yards put the chickens up hung out the special quilt laid out the catalog sheets put fresh oil in all the lamps cause you never could tell just how long you'd want to stay a war on evil takes a lot of planning takes a lot to get troops stirred up. so stewed corn with fatback, fried chicken, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers in vinegar were passed around several times soldiers need meat on their bones, Martin, walking through dustbowls hailstorms riding on the blade of a lighting rod those old sisters opened their front rooms for you opened preserves and jams that had been put away for something special tall, brown, sweet with dreams like their own sons when they were about your age before they drowned in the dust that you so gallantly stepped lightly through--these were your first infantry, Martin, GRANDMOTHERS whose words and dreams shot straight bullets these were your first line GRANDMOTHERS always ready to rinse out a soul or two these were the first line who put the armor of sassafras, high john the conqueror, and blood root inside your shoes made mountains continue to grow in your daytime dreams. yes, Martin, songs sung in kitchens on front porches in turnip patches at hog killings carried the same verses carried the same weapons carried the same vision in your name they gathered washing, sharpening knives polishing bullets painting numbers on their children's heads.
Jaki Shelton Green is a resident of Efland, North Carolina. She is the author of three books of poetry--Dead on Arrival, Dead on Arrival and New Poems, and Masks--all published by Carolina Wren Press. She awaits the release of two new books-Cleansing Skies and Osyterburgers and Fruit Punch.