11:00 P.M., Tuesday, September 30, 1919: The Hoop Spur Lodge Of The Progressive Farmers And Household Union Meets At Hoop Spur Church, Just North Of Elaine, Arkansas; First Shots Of The Elaine Race Massacre Ring Out.


The sounds of children, infants, and chatter

Of chatter encase and shrink the interior. A

Union, a progressive something or other. No

White men to stiffen or direct; we’re on our

Own. A baby boy cries out for the known

At hand; air thick with the first and yet to be,

Threats from ancient times and the here and the

Later for which we thirst, risk all and nothing,

Nothing more than one, for we breathe as one.


A high-pitched missile, a bevy, an avalanche

Above us like voices, angry whistles gone mad

With boards, tawny to char-black, ripped and

Sliced apart. The lanterns evaporate into mass,

Bullets invade, bodies search for escape, moving

Across the floor and out the windows and doors

Into the moonlight, into the cotton rows behind

The Hoop Spur Church, into the jealous shroud

Of another world, blessed stormless, merciful.


Crackles of more gunfire: rifles or shotguns

Explode along the slough; and blood and death

Are mentioned near the car that stands unmoved

As a silhouette against a sanctuary of silence that

Now repeats itself again and again with escapes

Finished, all headed alone into secret retreat,

Unaware of rising hordes to greet the morning

Tides, to impale with forms given quick birth by

The long and dank stare of blood in their eyes.