Never Said a Mumbling Word by Yusef Saalam

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These poems are part of a special section of the Mid-Atlantic Review, Celebrating Black History, and selected by editors Khadijah Ali-Coleman, Carolivia Herron, and Rebecca Bishophall. To learn more about this series read a blog post on the Day Eight website here.
 

A note from the poet: This poem remembers the 100 years lynchings of African-Americans. The phrase at the very end of the poem, “Let a new earth rise, Let another world be born” is from Margaret Walker’s poem “For My People.”
 

Never Said a Mumbling Word

by Yusef Saalam

I was there
Gliding on a cloud
Blessed bright, cheerful sunshine
On a dark Duck Hill, Mississippi day
I catch the shakes when I remember
I tremble, tremble, tremble
No Coloreds in church that Easter Sunday
The Mayor preached at the picnic recalling
the Savior’s ascension from the
grip of the grave
A holy day fat with fresh fried catfish,
collard greens, pudding pie, lemonade,
moonshine blues, and honky tonk strutting
I rode a silver stallion across the heavens to witness
a sanctified remembrance of the Resurrection
that echoed a cruel crucifixion
The sheriff fetched an experienced rope for the favorite fun
Noosing Robert McDaniels’s neck and tying him in chains
Swindlers persecuted him to satisfy appetites hungry for his four acres
and brand-new mule
Someone whiskey-drenched thrice-stabbed his side

A woman’s soul washed with pale hate flung gasoline
Her sister-in-Christ lit the wood circling the man denied justice

He grumbled not, never uttered a mumbling word

Delighted adolescents spat curses at him milked in mothers’ wombs
Blood gushed and the man’s pristine living lifted his head high
The rope choked as it hosted him
Hearty party cameras flashed in his face
Penis, fingers, toes, and ears carved and bargained to eager shoppers
The wind fanned flames over the toasting frame
McDaniels never said a mumbling word
His neck snapped, breath and blood merged
His brain screamed for oxygen
The heart drummed death pulsing
Snot, puke, and guts dripping stench
Robert McDaniels could not bear the burden
of his tortured torso
He jerked and slumped, his soul singing “Let a new earth rise,
Let another world be born…”
 

Yusef Salaam is a poet-playwright and educator. He has written for the New York Amsterdam News, Essence, Black Enterprise, down beat, and the Santa Fe Literary Review. He currently writes book reviews for the New York Beacon. His two-act play, “The Devil & Elijah Muhammad” was produced twice by the Harlem-based H.A.D.L.E.Y. Players. He has participated in the Oen Mike session at Sister’s Bookstore in upper Manhattan. Featured image in this post is Delta Church by Willy Bearden, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
Editor
Editorhttp://www.dayeight.org
Bourgeon’s mission, through our online publication and community initiatives, is twofold: to increase participation in the arts and to improve access to the arts. Bourgeon is a project of the not-for-profit Day Eight.
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