Maxwell Brodenheim, Lynched Negro
Your downcast, harlequin, defenceless face
Was turned to ashen flakes, and wavered up
In lightly shapeless impotence upon
The sprightly scandals of a morning wind,
The hands of other men fell on your breast,
Like scores of scorpions instinctively
Expelled from jungle-spots within their hearts.
Your blood, in fine quick problems, spattered out
Upon the morning air that studied them
And left complete, dry answers on your skin.
(Oh, what is life but cold arithmetic
Where fractions serve as subtleties and add
Refinement to the rise and fall of dull,
Blunt numbers shuffled indisputably:
And what is death but mathematics where
The numbers graduate to higher planes
And leave a "terrifying" interest?)
Yet, something beyond pain within your shriek
Would indicate, black man, that sky-large brains
Can stumble in their count and recognize
An eerie, unrelenting quality
Forever in revolt against their plans.
Emotion and its choking metaphors
Insist that two times two is never quite
The four that "life" methodically brands
On nations and the ceaseless pain of men.
You were accused of tendering a strong,
Experimental hatred to the frail,
Intense obstruction of a woman's flesh,
And endlessly you squawked your innocence.
But crime and justice do not live beyond
The point where death, with one, efficient whim,
Corrects the tongues of bungling, churlish men.