Wednesday, August 28, 2013

For Those Who Marched with Martin Luther King on August 28, 1963

his daddy never hear the splash

willie james howard 15
sure can sing
he has a sweet round face
good-natured too
for a black boy sweeping floors
at the live oak florida dime store 1944
during the war we can agree was fought for justice and liberty
oh willie know alright
he know the rules
but cyndy goff she 15 too
she smile at him
silky blond hair eyes sparkling blue
willie know the rules
he know
he shouldn't write that note
i love your name
i love your voice
for a sweetheart you are my choice
and for this tiny bit of poetry
willie paid a terrible inflated price
cyndy goff she show willie's note to her daddy phil
her daddy phil show it to two more good ole boys
we forget their names
it doesn't matter now
they come for willie
they drag him off his front porch his momma lula
please oh god what my willie done
she clings to him
til they stick that pistol in her face
yes they come for willie
they fling him in the backseat of phil's old chevrolet
drive over to the bond howell lumber company
where willie's daddy work
james howard you'd better come with us
that boy of yourn in a heap of trouble
so james howard comes out
he tries talking to willie
son he say
but one of the ole boys shout shut up nigger
or we put a bullet in that boy's head
so james howard gets in
and they all drive down the old red clay road
that winds through mossy old oak trees
way down to the suwanne river
far far away
wha de old folks stay
and phil ask willie
did you or did you not write that note boy answer me boy
yes sir willie say
with rope they bind willie's hands behind his back
they bind his legs they force his daddy to haul willie out the car
they force his daddy to stand willie up on an embankment 
near the waters edge
phil ask willie
you know the penalty for what you done boy answer me boy
yes sir willie say
right then james howard know he'll find no mercy today in these white men
good southern christian white men
they do kindly oblige him bid his son adieu
willie i can't do nothin for you now
i'm just glad i belong to a church and can pray for you
then phil raise his gun
bullet or river boy bullet or river
bawling terrified willie stagger back
he stumble he fall
his daddy scream and scream
his daddy never hear the splash
good southern christian white men
they drive james howard back to the lumber yard
so he can finish his shift
before he come home to lula
all he say to lula
willie not coming home

--David Bunnell