After closing, a young black man
knocks. You see, my business
includes haven. You see,
in the deep South, white farm owners
purchase the prison time of jailed blacks
who then work the plantations.
Well, even after years, you see,
most never get released. When they try
to escape, many go underground
in graves no one finds.
No death certificates, you see.
Working with the NAACP,
I provide shelter for escapees.
You see, this man, he escaped
from a plantation after three years.
I didn’t ask how. But I know
the undying look of death
on the face of a man who has killed.
He appears familiar, seems to know
his way around town like a map.
I tell him he can stay overnight,
and in the morning I will provide bus fare.
But, you see, he wants none of it.
Says he came to visit his daughter.
When I ask who, he converts
to a lip-sewn cadaver.
So, I ask him why he doesn’t stay
with his daughter, be a father,
or leave here and take his family
up north, maybe Detroit
where my uncle, undertaker, thrives.
Learn the business. Make money.
But he dashes out down the alley.
When I catch up, I give him a pair
of brown leather two-tones
from a customer with no need.
He cried, you see, as he put them on,
and, at the sound of footsteps,
we ran toward different sunsets.
donnarkevic: Buckhannon, WV. MFA National University. Recent work appears in Rattle, Bindweed Magazine, and Solum Literary Press. A Best of the Net and Pushcart nominee with over 300 published poems. A third book of poetry, After the Lynching, will be published by Main Street Rag in Spring/Summer 2022.