This Bitter Crop Hasn’t Ended
“. . . blood at the root” — Billie Holiday
for M. Brown
By Robert Bohm

You died the day
I turned 71.
Couldn’t hold on, I guess.  You should’ve known
my Uncle Adam.  Fingers thick
as railroad tie spikes, his calloused
hands never unclenched
once he grabbed hold
of something, a twine-spreader 
at the Plymouth Rope-Making factory
or playing baseball, a catcher
who never
dropped a pitch.  But you, my young friend, that wasn’t
your style.  Your hands
didn’t have  
the strength to grab
a car bumper or stop-sign pole and pull yourself
up, alive
& still smiling in spite of being filled
with bullets.
Wasn’t your fault, though, with all that
lead weighing you
down. Unlike
Uncle Adam who’d never been
shot, and also unlike him with his craggy
lined face 
& white get-in-free pass to every bar in town, you knew all about
cops shooting to kill whether you had
a weapon or not —
knew even before getting gunned down.
You’re the dividing line now, son,
the cadaver we all must step over to relocate
the boneyard’s library
of unknown events,
you’re our Gaza Strip, stretched
between desert & sea, where people huddle
in bombed buildings and even the doves
cooing in the rubble
wear bulletproof vests —
yes, you are the divide between
eating dirt
& spitting it out, between
whites tossing back shots of communion wine while talking big & doing nothing
& other whites (punk
                                     rockers, hip
                                                          hoppers, diners   
at the dumpster, slack
                                      ers, art
                                                    masters painting pictures
on the eyelids of
all these
                 mobbing together
                                                   on moonlit streetcorners 
finally going crazy screaming
against the making
of so much grief

Robert Bohm is a regular contributor to Radius.