Duncan and Brady
after the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict
Speaking of ’lectric cars,
once at a Fort Worth stop
signa lowrider lifted a fender
like a dog might lift his leg to piss
and flipped me the bird as he took off
laughing around the corner.
That was long ago, but he knew what
he meant—and he loved it.
As the uptight white boy I was
in those days, I may have deserved
his contempt. These days I’d like
to blow him a kiss on the wind he stirred,
as he spun out that souped-up Chevy.
Would it were so, amigo,
would it were so.
Staggerlee remembers Xmas
but King Brady, he lies dead
and the ghost of old St. Louie
flew past my naked bed
when the rage for George Floyd started
up and down my street,
and the high-tailed carriages
came and went all night
breaking in the windows
knocking down the door
startling me in bed on the second floor…
Busy now, containing Russia,
smug in my alabaster pink
pragmatism, I rejoiced in my country’s
apparent arrested decline. Cop who murdered
Floyd will go to jail, I thought. We threw out
the bastards who stormed the Capitol, I said—
forgetting only too eagerly
Republicans’ settled intention
to lynch the rest of us, La Migra stilll
ording it up at the border, catching runaways
jury finding Rittenhouse ‘not guilty on all counts.’
Nothin’ for it but the blues?
James Baldwin’s Staggerlee let pent up anger, blues remade,
hiss out of him like rancid air from some hack’s
Seem like King Brady never died,
Duncan shot him,
doctor found him dead
but he just raised his hammy fist, took that doctor by the throat
and growled, “Sumbitch, you know I cain’t be killed!”
We’ll not overcome this last lynch mob—they’re us;
we’ll watch polite and passive as the Good Old US steals
away down Dixie one last time; no matter clawhammer steels
ring out from edges of fields
to tell it again
how we’ve all of us been—
yeah, we’ve been on the job
About the history of this song see here. And also author Candas Jane Dorsey in this issue.
Julian O. Long on Facebook here. He is a contributor to The New Verse News. His poems and essays have appeared in The Sewanee Review, Pembroke Magazine, New Texas, New Mexico Magazine, and Horizon among others. His chapbook High Wire Man is number twenty-two in the Trilobite Poetry series published by the University of North Texas Libraries. A collection of his poems, Reading Evening Prayer in an Empty Church, appeared from Backroom Window Press in 2018. Other online publications have appeared or are forthcoming at The Piker Press, Better Than Starbucks, The Raw Art Review, and Litbreak Magazine. Long has taught school at the University of North Texas, North Carolina State University, and Saint Louis University. He is now retired and lives in Saint Louis, Missouri.