THE GRAND DRAGON OF THE KKK IS BURIED NEAR MY HOUSE
They let him down, four local boys
with faces valleyed by years,
and eyes that skitch away sideways
like outdoor dogs. He’d never miss a piece
o’ blueberry pie says the one, agreement
hanging between them like long years,
like all the black mornings through which
they’d staggered home, drunk as a man could get
if he drank from overtime to closing time.
They were men in various stages of falling down.
They lowered him home, and it’s a good thing
he died young, thought at least one,
my strength ain’t what it once was,
I don’t know how much longer I’ll hold up.
He was somethin’ says the guy
whose shoulder hurts worst, remember
the summer we was all on TV? and he lifts his eyes
upward toward memory: himself at 19,
his muscles coiled ready inside his skin.
He really was a man to be reckoned with.
Nobody says nothing, but they’re all agreeing,
rubbing the young back into their joints,
his name like a balm that burns away the years.
And again, as if somebody had disagreed:
His name means something here, everybody
knowed him for somebody, and they lift
their eyes again, to bodies before pain,
to the value of a name, here, where every
grave is a pauper’s grave, off this nowhere
road, where every car is a car from here.
—from Rattle #63, Spring 2019
Rachel Custer: “I like to write poems that challenge me. Sometimes, I challenge myself to write about people or situations that elicit strong reactions. I like to write against my own emotions, thoughts, and judgments. Sometimes it teaches me something about myself, or about what it means to be human. Sometimes it cements in me what I already knew. Sometimes it shows me what I don’t.” (web)