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Good Shepard [Undergraduate ODU Poetry Prize Winner]

By David Baah
  • Cousin Shep pulled me out of bed,
  • long before sunrise,
  • and buckled his wrinkled overalls with haste;
  • we were under attack.
  • I was sleep-drunken,
  • sweating out the Mississippi heat,
  • my only instruction:
  • Take Grandma and ya’ sisters out the back door
  • and don’t’ stop until ya’ hit the road.
  • With fatigue still in my eyes,
  • I hopped into some pants,
  • tapped around in the dark for shoes,
  • and woke the young and old
  • for our escape.
  • I was told not to stop,
  • but I did,
  • knowing that my twelve-year-old sister, Janie,
  • would recognize her way
  • through the maze of black forest
  • kissing the back of our farm.
  • A monster of fire
  • devouring our cow shed,
  • stretched its hellish limbs
  • and swallowed the crackling wood
  • of our home
  • in a cocoon of flame
  • that bled out of the windows.
  • I ran, stumbling through the mud pits
  • where pigs scurried about in fright.
  • Shielded by some fencing,
  • I stopped to watch four shapes
  • wrestling in the field;
  • one of them was Shep.
  • Two men wearing white pillowcases,
  • loosely draped over their skulls,
  • dragged his bloody body across the grass
  • and put his back against the giant elm tree
  • that stood like a lighthouse in our front yard.
  • They tied ropes to each of his wrists
  • and pulled his arms in opposite directions
  • so he wouldn’t run off.
  • I heard raised voices.
  • A third man was now shouting,
  • holding a weapon above his head.
  • The intruder spoke reason:
  • Shep had a knack for letting his eyes wander
  • into the vicinity of thighs and ass
  • on the yella-haired-ladies
  • who bought colas at Bryant’s market,
  • and he’d whistle
  • as they pranced off
  • with their pointy noses held high,
  • in vibrant heels
  • that made them tall.
  • I was ten years old
  • when I saw the “police”
  • burn my house,
  • shove a shotgun
  • in a nigger’s mouth,
  • knocking out all of his teeth,
  • he mumbled only vowels,
  • and they pulled the trigger.

 

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Poet David A. Baah (the walking jigsaw puzzle of culture) was born in Fairfax, Virginia, to a father of West African heritage and a mother from Kazakhstan. Currently a senior studying at Old Dominion, his interests are the craft of film, creative writing, social & political sciences, and philosophy.  Profound is the poet’s love for words and their power—he reads everything: from books to body language.

 

 


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