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a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society

Lesley Wheeler

Paid Advertisement

Because of all the trouble the democrats and black race are causing, I place this ad. No black people or democrats are allowed on my property until further notice.
–Raymond Agnor, The News-Gazette, July 15, 2015


The Judas trees are troubled. Purple bloom

long eaten by winds, woody seed-pods

coming on. No canker or coral-spot allowed

on these cordate leaves until further notice.


Lucy Long, Lee’s other horse, long buried

on Mackey’s farm, rolls her sad bones over.

The sorrel mare, steadier than Traveller, gentler,

sends a ghost breeze whickering through the field.


No one seems to prickle when I limp down streets

named for generals. Register me a damp cloud.

First read of my yielding body’s party might be

mother, white. Not from here but allowed


on the grass, not a hue or sex shot on sight.

Privilege with a scent of condescension.

Because a threat riffles through my newspaper.

Unclassified. Some words can ionize.


Because new cattle underpass, football camp,

Auto Recyclers buying glass. A gust kicks up

where citizens dozed under flags, during

the killings. Charges me. I place this ad.


Rescue Ballad

There will be no authoritative
version, ever. Like coal,
ballads are found chiefly in mountains.
Not Florida wetlands, unfolded,

exposed. The pulse is love, sometimes
pressured by heat into hate.
No moral. No right side. Ballads
start at the end, are incomplete

without salsa and merengue.
Without rainbow strobe lights swirling.
So gather the flashes. The dancing.
Dissonance. A woman pushing

her son to safety. The shirtless boys
carrying the bleeding boys
out to the street. Preserve the half-
forgotten, fugitive noise

of weeping mixed with singing. None
can recover the sense. Down
the petals crash and break. I’m sick
at heart and I want to lie down.


Lesley Wheeler is the author of four collections, including Radioland and Heterotopia, winner of the Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize. Recent poems and essays appear in Crab Orchard Review, Ecotone, and Poetry, and she blogs at Wheeler is the Henry S. Fox Professor of English at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia.

Other works by Lesley Wheeler »

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