First they said they’d never move the statue.

Then, when George Floyd died, they said they’d

move the statue to the quiet edge of campus


where soldiers brought from Shiloh

who died at the campus hospital were buried—

a field of grass, anonymous


ever since a groundsman took the headstones

off to mow, and forgot where he should

put them back. Now they want to make


a Confederate shrine. A walkway with a bench

and lights will curve around the statue,

filmed for continuous surveillance.


Bless his heart, they say here. It means,

he’s really stupid. Or it means,

we see right through him. So bless their hearts,


Board of Trustees of the Institutions

of Higher Learning.

Twelve white birds in a burning tree.




I will never see Ernest again

for if someone breaks parole

and they send him back to Parchman,


they can keep him there forever.

I will never see Ernest, who could

barely read, who could barely write,


whom I taught, whom I loved,

Ernest from Jackson, who wrote about

swimming as a kid with other Black folks


at the Ross Barnett Reservoir, and when

I said, “ironic,” he grinned and said,

“I know.” Ernest the scar on whose arm


had never seen stitches, but ran

from elbow to wrist in a horrifying

flesh ditch. Who missed class twice


because the diet of bologna

stopped him up so bad

he had to go to hospital. Who was


obviously trusted, he cleaned the building

and took out trash. Who was huge, who was

housed in Prerelease not because he’d be


released but to calm the other men.

I wish you could stand in the presence

of Ernest. When we met each week,


he would hold his hand to his heart.

When we parted that last time,

we hugged each other close and long.


Why, you ask, do I not visit Ernest?

They’d never let me in, the class

is done. And I am neither friend nor family.




I’m kind of old, and ill. I grieve, but cannot march.

So I chalked Black Lives Matter

at the bottom of our driveway. Then my neighbor


chalked Black Lives Matter at the bottom

of her driveway. But now Juneteenth is over,

and someone has scrubbed the asphalt clean.