by Patricia Smith
Through landscape soaked in glow, so biblically
aloud he knew the Lord had stomped it sweet—
my father Harry fled the heinous heat
of Carolina’s whip and spittle—he
was sure his rabid master Moore would be
a lash behind, commanding curs to seek
his vassal’s surging blood. Anguished and weak,
Pa coiled inside the hollow of a tree.
For seven months, the poplar was his home.
He prayed, slew snakes, ate of the wild—today
no one believes he lived to win that fight.
I’m Moses Grimes, his son, wedded and grown.
A poplar on my land still marks the day
my father hurtled forth, dazed by the light.
Poem copyright 2017 by Patricia Smith. Photograph courtesy Smith-DeSilva collection.
All rights reserved.