Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Of Viola Liuzzo

She was driving back to Selma when they hit her.
I was nowhere near. But I came from there.
My daddy’s daddy had blood on his hands.
He got his. He did nothing fit to live
save sire nine children, breed-Cherokee wife
surviving him thirty-seven years, history
nobody stopped to figure. All she knew
at the end was her son’s inside toilet
after a lifetime of making her way
out the door to the gate and into the privy
in the pasture. Viola Liuzzo
lived in Detroit, where Effie’s youngest son
worked for Budwheel, drank beer, diabetes
cut him down, dying after her, though Jess,
her oldest, was first to go. One of four
others was my father. One, Cleve, removed
his Bulova from his wrist and strapped it
around mine: “That’s your graduation gift,”
he said. In Santa Ana he told tales
of the war before and after, until
Juil, still a widow in his future,
returned from Disneyland, my sister
full of joy. Wilburton, Oklahoma,
then, Buster taking us to the garage
inspired by my father’s backyard garage.
There he passed his latest moonshine around
and I drained the Mason jar. My father
wept with his brother. I dreamed of fucking
young blonde Carol Stockton from Stockton, Cal.,
visiting with her mother in the house
with red-haired retired schoolteacher Carmen
Buster would widow thanks to World War Two.
Only Clyde did not go, cared for Effie
south of Fort Smith, downhill from my first home.
When she died, he married, outlived his wife.
Before Carol I knew only one love
and she was more woman than any one
until Cathleen, whom I did not yet know.
I mean Irene Castenada, first love
whose photograph showing her mole on one
dark cheek I loved both then and all my life;
though Cathleen took her place, and helped me live.
How many hearts were shattered that grim day
of the death of Viola Liuzzo,
in the city where I saw Joe Louis
and I would sound his three-syllable name
my father repeated. Even Manuel
Romain, the son of poor whites, knew poor blacks
worse off than his family ever was.
Sister Chloe lived. Beulah and Lahoma
died right after their daddy filled his grave.
I was gone when Viola Liuzzo
died on her way home; the radio said:
They omitted the names of her assassins,
the FBI and the Klan were too useful.

for Rob Dakin

(12 October 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

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