About 9:30 A.M., Thursday, October 2, 1919: Prominent Helena Black Dentist D.A.E. Johnston And His Three Brothers, Returning From A Hunting Trip, Are Immediately Arrested In Elaine And Are Shot And Killed Shortly Thereafter; One Of The Johnstons Reputedly Killed A White Man, Orley Lilly, In The Gunfight.


Stories happen even slowly for reasons

That have to do with words; but it was

Just a moment, and we were all slayed

And outside the car on the road with

Chains still holding us brothers as one.

Orley too shot through and through – by

One of us to start to settle the score? Who

Can ever know? We’re always behind in

The count, feeding tomorrow’s tale.


Bad surprises always open the bad

Places – I learned that about the time

I could pee standing up, and it’s been

That way; intent on us to show, they’d

Rehearsed a descent, the steps, the toll,

Warnings or sign, in sequence: no

Knock left out of order; we knew content

Was the least of it – we were only going

Through a final version of an allegory.


Hiding in our haste to survive while

Hiding as though we don’t even exist

For us to exist invisibly in shadows of

The whites’ circle roundabout us, and

We roundabout them, but always in

The shadows they cast with little or

No purpose, yet to watch us follow in

Step, always in step, inside or aside,

Behind – never in the rites of genesis.