You Don’t Have to Kill a Man to Kill Him

by | Apr 8, 2020 | Poetry

How it must
have been for my grandfather to sit
on the rented side porch he used to own,
to smoke Camels and flick the butts
over the rail like fireflies.
To rub his bald head as if it held
some legal magic to recover family land
the bank repossessed in β€˜32;
to gaze out through oaks
at fence posts he split by hand
(missing three fingers cut off in a gin),
wire he stretched with a come-along
that fences him out and in.
To tick
over in his mind the graves
in the wrought-iron cemetery,
marble swords in marble scabbards,
forebears fallen on some battlefield
for the right to own black hands
to saw the heart pine boards
and fire the chimney bricks.
To review all he had been bestowed
to fulfill the husbandry a man
in south Georgia is born to practice,
then pass the land on to his kin.
But the bank just pity-deeded us
the weedy charity acre
where the soldiers β€” and now he β€”
are resting.
Before he died
he’d tiptoe into the shotgun-house parlor
where we four grandsons
slept on a corn husk tick mattress
under quilts Carson women stitched.
When he shoveled coal on the grate,
the glow leaped and threw
his shadow on the ceiling,
bent over, bigger than he was.

Photo used under CC.

About The Author


An Atlanta poet, Ricks Carson has had poems appear in a variety of publications since the early 80s. These include The Cortland Review, The Kansas Quarterly, The South Carolina Quarterly, Main Street Rag, Zone 3, The Chattahoochee Review, and anthologies like Stone, River, Sky, an anthology of Georgia poets (2015). He has received two Pushcart nominations. Mortality and redemption are abiding concerns.