Richard Messer

Old Man at Our Yard Sale in Jonesboro

It did cross my mind I could garrote you

     as you stood there so proud to tell me 

     Yeah, downtown they used to tar 

      and feather lots of black folk. 

You saw the rental truck out front,

      and guessed we were moving. 

      That what happened

      to your wife, terrible, terrible. 

I stood there, pinned down by your dead eyes. Words 

coiled out of you, slow poisonous. 

      Frank Barnet, owned the hardware

      back then, he killed one, asked, did you say 

      such and such. He said, Yes, I did. Frank

      emptied out his gun into him. One we hung. 

      Boll Weevil he was called. He stabbed dead 

      this officer. Well, we took that negro and lynched him. 

      Three days he swung before anybody cut him down. 

Right then I almost hit you and would have, but for a glimpse 

of your horrific ignorance. You drew back, grimacing 

a gap-toothed grin and dropped my daughter’s jump rope 

back onto the sales table. 

      Oh, Oh, you said, Alright Sir, you

      have a nice day, hear?

Richard Messer has published in The Sun and the Black Warrior Review and other reviews. Fisher King press published two of his books of poetry. My book of prose and poetry, Murder in the Family, published by Larry Smith at Bottom Dog Press, was awarded the Nancy Dasher award by the College English Association of Ohio. I have published an additional book, a memoir, Down the Big Rivers, from Three Forks Montana to New Orleans Louisiana, 2015, Genoa House Press.