- On Daniel Minter’s High John the Conqueror
The sun decides its whitest light, heatHigh enough to melt the pavement,So John gives up on the new road northAnd cuts through red clay at first sightOf shade, barbed wire broken, milesOf green to be cleared or cleaned growingIn rows like welts behind him. God’sNot on his side. John won’t workA whole day and can’t keep cancerOut his mouth. Oh, he’s got the shouldersFor it, the stride, arms and handsThe size of a laboring man’s, but oneItch for smoke in his throat and JohnHeads for hell. Nothing about GeorgiaCan slow him down. King of allThat slithers, here he chokes a snake.I catch his yellow eye and rememberMy own pack of menthols, days I’d dragAnd puff lies in front of my wife whoWaited while I wished for man after man,Black in two dimensions, to run my way,Dear John, a region painted against me. [End Page 848]
Jericho Brown, who teaches creative writing at Emory University, is author of Please, a volume of poems.