Reparation, or The Cartographer of the Godfather of Soul
Missing Witness: (n. phrase): the expectation by a jury of one’s peers that your existence is yours to keep, that you are a witness to salvageable testimony Posse Comitatus: a fee of $10 a US Marshall can impose upon a citizen who aided a fugitive during the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act
i. Missing witness Charge! dusk is rapidly falling. A jury of one’s peers has gone extinct. Men circled around him glaring justification. you cannot trust hearsay. You cannot unblind an unsalvageable thing. It is like it is—chant, chant, the spitting of tobacco juice. The encore, the clean muscle, where the brightest cannot reach. You were there, brother from another mother. Tremendous stings, like killer bees searching with a flashlight on wrinkled oak trees, for shadow-dance, in spite of the brightness they cannot reach, the negative inference swelling collective testimony. ii. Charge! Dusk is rapidly falling, encore! “Deep River” diametrically mapping bread-crumb crime scene. where dim, blisters on a neck are an exoneration. Centuries later: silk fine suit, Good Gawdy on television we watched Soul thrive visibly in spite of huge damned bodies, revelation toured crime scene circuity. The register spits out 10 bucks back (unidentified accounting); the nation seismically opens, layer upon layer, titanic crust fractures: a cake-cream unfurling, this leitmotif of reparation.
Pied Billed Grebe, Pennsylvania
Prigg v. Pennsylvania: an 1842 Supreme Court case in which Edward Prigg, a slave catcher from the State of Maryland, was convicted with kidnapping after capturing a slave in Pennsylvania. In 1832, Margaret Morgan, an African American woman, had moved from Maryland to Pennsylvania, where she lived free from her previous owner John Ashmore. Ashmore’s heirs hired Prigg, who then abducted Morgan with the intention to sell her back south. Then, Prigg was arrested.
Prigg caught in deep river mosquito-salt-boot-leather run. Mother never knew what finicky thing was a deep river run. Meters down, brackish slugs, unborn collection of lepidopterist sticks, Prigg built a white tombstone, slept uneasily, with deep rope swings. In middle school Lucy saw Eddy heap air, white blonde hair off that rope, astronaut his hairless body. What would become of him? The search warrant scoped, carbon-paled faced slope hiding in hunt. Who returned Margaret Morgan to Maryland? oak wagon collapse. Mellow lanterns seen from a window: Flee, flee, talk, talk, silence! This spiritual extradition delivered home. Unfaced men found Jesus. But they knew no holy thing deliver, blue-growth, scum on skin, their cleanliness could never deliver restless, Shadrach Minkins Marched out of Federal Prison. No holy things delivered. Pied billed Grebe lost in streaming sunk, faintest whisper, tawny lilies arrest mellow lanterns in dusk, run; the soul grows a pining test, I marched out from Federal Prison.
Jonathan Andrew Pérez, Esq. has published poetry online and in print in Prelude, The River Heron Review, Blood Tree Literature, The Write Launch, and many others. He has poems forthcoming in Quiddity on NPR, among others. Jonathan's chapbook, Cartographer of Crumpled Maps is to be published by Finishing Line Press early 2020. Jonathan was selected by Cave Canem in 2018 and 2019 for workshops. He is a 2019 Pushcart Prize in Poetry Nominee. He is a reader for Palette Poetry. He has a day job as a trial attorney.