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  • Postscript, and: Palms, and: Inscription for Air
  • Jake Adam York (bio)


for Medgar Evers

I didn't want to write this,even to think of you,afraid the thought would curl,would tangle and make youcommon and factual as light.So I've waited,hands, pencils down.Now that seems a prayeragainst the world and being in it.That is why he waitedin the bushes. That is a prayerthe closed eyes say.This is not the afterimagebut the image of dayon paper, in its pores,new light that shows the edges,so nothing can be hid,even if the words curl like hair,even if they curl like vine.Again, today, the light is new,and because you are nowhereyou are everywhere,in the face of which I'd askhow can I say anything,in the face of which I askhow can I say nothing at all? [End Page 343]


Frank Morris, burned when his Ferriday, Louisiana, shop was set afire December 10, 1964. Died December 14, 1964.

What they remember are the palmsof his feet, the only skinnot dressed in white,

not the glaze of plasma or escharwhen they change the gauze.Eyes' erratic semaphores.

The palms of his feet, the pulsehard within. Not firewalking in the shape of a man,

the sleeves, the yoke, the backshining gasoline—or the shopgone up like a cross,

a church where he'd workedthe town's worn shoes.Not the glass, the skin,

real white, he raspsto the agent as the tape,the gauze unreel.

What they remember arethe palms of his feet,the last whole skin [End Page 344]

where he could feel. Howhis hands held toolshe'd never named to either son

to mend the tongue,the toe, the heel, the sole,then hand back the shoe.

How slowly they touched himon the palms of his feet,the last skin his work had saved. [End Page 345]

Inscription for Air

John Earl Reese, shot while dancing in a café in Mayflower, Texas, October 22, 1955

Not for the wound, not for the bullet,    power's pale cowardice, butfor you, for the three full syllables    of your name we hold wholeas a newborn by the feet, and so    for the cry, the first note, the keyof every word to follow, the timbre,    the tone, the voice that could singNat King Cole's "If I May," and slow    dance the flip side, the blossomsfallen like a verdict to the jury's lips,    not to the blood or the brokenglass or the spiders silking juke-box    wires in a junkman's shed,but the fingers' heat still on the dime    when it slides to the switch,the lamp on the platter, the groove    that tells the needle what to say,and the pine boards of the café floor    once moved by the locusts' moannow warm as a guitar's wood, revived    with all the prayers of song, Amensthat flame when a blues turns bright,    not for what was lost, but whatwas lived, what is written here,    in the night, in vinyl, in the air,for the bead of sweat at the hair's deckle,    the evening star in the trees, [End Page 346] soda-pop sugar wild on your tongue and    for the tongue telling Saturday nightsomething of Sunday morning, fluent    as a mockingbird, and for the handthat opens as if in praise, as if in prayer,    asking for another to fill it there,for the smile and for the smile of skin    behind the ear where love might lip its name,for you, if we may, pull back the arm    and start this music once again. [End Page 347]

Jake Adam York

Jake Adam York authored three books of poems: Murder Ballads, winner of the Elixir Prize in poetry; A Murmuration of Starlings, winner of the Colorado Book Award; and Persons Unknown, an editor's selection in the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry. Originally from Alabama, he was educated at Auburn and Cornell. He was a...


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