Frank Embree Standing on Buggy Facing Camera Fayette, Missouri, July 22,1899 (Photographer Unknown)

He’s a lynch knot waiting to tighten. He’s
standing on buggy’s bed, backbone-tall, standing.
Hands, genitals last guards, cuffed in front. Hands,
wrists swollen, handcuffs biting captured wrists.
Hats: bowlers, straw, soft brim; white men wear hats.
Hatless black Frank, no listed crime, just hated.

Torso too strong. Camera sees fear of torso.
Elegance, brutally bound elegance,
absence of smiles, no smiling, just smiles’ absence,
flow of fresh welts slants down chest as they flow.
Band, hat’s band, white face half in frame with hat band.
Hand, low; face, shaded, holding the whip hand.
Thighs show whip’s map, whip’s slashing claim on thighs.
Eyes, mouth near snarl, Frank Embree’s unbowed eyes.

Photograph of Lynching, Pre-1915: Place and Photographer, Unknown

(after Robert Johnson’s, “Hellhound on my Trail”)

There’s a hellhound on his trail, hellhound, there’s
a hellhound on his trail, on his trail, a
pack of hounds hunting him fleeing their pack.
Found by hounds, found by men, by camera found.
Camera sees body slumped to its knees. Camera
sees what should not be seen, what must be seen:

murder, eye-socket bullet-blackened, murder;
wounds where ears once heard hellhounds chasing; wounds
from bullets hunting groin close range; wounds from
bullets exploding mouth to blood-blooms; bullets
found target leather-bound to pine trunk, found
bound hands useless to prevent its lead hounds

Postcard Showing the Lynching of Allen Brooks March 10, 1910, Dallas, Texas

(photographer unknown)

This is not a postcard from hell. No, this
postcard has proper postage. This postcard
guaranteed by U.S. Mail, guaranteed
safe passage, safe arrival, content safe.
Scrawled message, “…token of a great day,” scrawled
beside one cent Ben Franklin stamp behind

picture of teaming downtown Dallas, picture
taken one Thursday, lunch hour, picture taken:
old Negro hanging beneath Elk’s Arch, old
dead Allen Brooks stripped naked, beaten dead
before he hung. Clothes snatched as trophies before
photographer captured his photograph.

Under Church Roof

Churches in blood is old news. Our black churches
exist for solace from spilled blood, exist
to provide Christ and sanctuary; to
structure equality of color, structure
embrace of all who Bible study, embrace
Rough young man lost in hunt under church roof.

One witness left to tell the worst of one.
No screaming audio; no, “Please, no!” No
last calls to Jesus as nine bled their last.
Slaughter-stained battle flag flies after slaughter.
Forty-five, birthday gun a forty-five,
targeting beloved icon, hate’s best target.