Clint Smith—​For Charles

//Clint Smith—​For Charles

Clint Smith—​For Charles

Clint Smith

For Charles

               On January 8, 1811 three men gathered together and planned what would be the largest
                 slave revolt in American History, rallying an army of 500 slaves in New Orleans, LA to
                 fight and die for freedom. Charles Deslondes, a mixed race slave driver, was their leader.

Charles, I imagine there came a point
where you decided enough was enough,
the sound of cow hide against flesh,

the alchemy of blood & sweat sitting
atop your lip, how the wind
from the Mississippi cooled it when

it raced across your mouth, teasing
your tongue to follow it beyond this
place. Or maybe they called you boy

one time too many; emasculated you
in front those you held dear. Or maybe
you grew weary of holding the whip

in your own hand, realized they had made
you a proxy for their deeds. When you
& the others came together to plan

the inevitable, hurled whispers from plantation  
to plantation—a clarion call of what could
no longer wait—had you already accepted

what would be made of you? Did you anticipate
how they would slice your hands at the wrist?
Render your femurs two shattered vases. Burn

you at the stake while you watched them behead
the others, pull the intestines through
their mouths & wrap them around the bodies.

One traveler wrote: Their heads, which decorate
our levee, all the way up the coast,
look like crows sitting on long poles.

Could you have known that they would make
a scarecrow of you? I grew up hearing these
stories, of heads jettisoned from the body

& mounted above the streetlights so everyone
could see the gloss in their eyes. Charles,
they will leave me roasting in the sun

for everyone to see, a warning that this is
no place for revolution, that the sweet
whisper of the Mississippi must persist.


Clint Smith is a teacher, writer, and doctoral candidate at Harvard University. He is a 2014 National Poetry Slam champion and was a speaker at the 2015 TED Conference. He has received fellowships from the National Science Foundation and the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop. His poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Kinfolks, Lime Hawk, Still: The Journal, Off the Coast, Harvard Educational Review, and elsewhere. He was born and raised in New Orleans, LA.



























































By |2018-12-05T15:26:19+00:00December 5th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

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