49 – Big River

Big River

(after reading Huck Finn)

We say it (nudge-nudge)
so often James
sets down his dog-eared
spine-broken book

climbs up on the block
his desk makes
in protest.

His dangling dreadlocks
sound manacles.

It suddenly smells of piss
and chattel-mud, though
outside this classroom
the night is fine.

Stomachs turn bile and vinegar.
Taste of shame.

White knuckles kiss
sweaty palms.

Don’t we float the Big River together?
Big wheel keep on turning.

That truck is trash.

That truck
is a sow’s ear. The truth?

Each wooden desk holds
only one. This raft weren’t lashed
to keep us all.

No matter.

Running aground,
busting up
each of us

water-logged cottonwoods
pulled by a muddy current
we can’t none of us stop as

mighty Mississippi rolls on

to the Gulf, open mouth
of salt and sorrow

sea’s freedom
seems preferable
to swallowing truth.

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