“Tracking the Soybean Assassin” by Clemonce Heard

Clemonce Heard


If you happen to be looking for corn
beef you’re in the wrong wheat
field. We been stopped harvesting cotton,
but there’s not enough tobacco
in the world to soothe these sweet potatoes.
Let’s just say any million is peanuts

compared to what lies underfoot. It’s nuts
to think no one suspected the corny
white dude who lived a block away was sweet
on the girl. It’s always the wheat,
never the white bread. Always tobacco
that leaves the bitter taste of cotton

in the South’s mouth. He stuffed cotton
underwear down the victim’s throat like peanuts
when there’s nothing else to smoke. Tobacco
can quell hunger, just like corn
grits swell in our guts. In the heat
of the raper’s youth, his mama called him Tater

& fed him all the finger food & toe
nails he could eat. It would take more than a ton
of apologies for the family forced to eat
the words of the investigators from the peanut
gallery that coerced their sons from their corners
to forgive. The Hephaestus of tobacco

over weed, is like the Bacchus
of moonshine over wine. Gods like spuds
with their steaks, & the smoke of burning corn
slathered in butter as dessert. In cotton
jumpsuits, two converging lines make a penis
crop circle to say “Fuck Jim Crow.” The white hate

we feel on our necks is the sun’s heat
on a burning field of Tobacco.
May he get lung cancer. Diabetes. May he pee
only where there’s a tree or pot.
For three decades two Black men slept on cots
of his guiltiness. “You gonna eat your corn

bread,” Buckwheat aka Goldmouth says to Peanut
aka Claude. “Fuck him” Corn aka Ray says sweeter
than tobogganing down a slope of cotton.

from Poets Respond
May 23, 2021


Clemonce Heard: “I read this story and wondered how many people, Black folks especially, have and are still serving sentences for crimes they didn’t commit. The fact that both of the brothers are said to have ‘intellectual disabilities’ make the investigators and verdict that much more heinous. Reading that the white victim was found dead in a soybean field brought me to the legacy of soybean and accompanying crops in North Carolina, and finally the form. The last two quotes are from the 1999 film Life.” (web)


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