Eatonton (Two)

by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

I sit on the porch of a small, gray house
in the town where Harris met
and stole Remus, Rabbit,
the stories of those who call this place home.
An agrarian lack now in this yard:

no flowers rioting around windows,
or that one pine tree my first love across the street
and I leaned against when we kissed.
My grandmother dead six years—that lost
Eatonton appears only on my page.

The tomatoes, squash, collard greens
in the furrowed garden gone, too,
from the back yard where I played, sharecroppers’
progeny, assured of place,
safe inside the walls of a segregated street

over the tracks,
calmed by what I could name.
At least, something I claimed.
This summer afternoon,
sitting on this porch, I see

the pale children of Harris walk
to the corner, unheeding history,
mingling with lesser brethren.
White kids don’t need to sneak these days.
They can stand unafraid in this bad, black

neighborhood, bob heads to the music of cars
passing, hand over their money, in glaring
daylight, for joints rolled tight into fists.
Some things don’t change.
The street remains segregated—

not even poor whites live here—
and there is the scent of honeysuckle
from a block over. The old tropes:
a woman, grown and moved away,
returns once a year

to sit on a porch, faithful stage,
feel guilty about leaving back in the day,
and wait for her first love
who pressed her into a pine tree
cut down years ago.

That man who stays outdoors long
into night, unheeding
the waiting woman who left him as a girl,
tries to coax a broke-down car into life.
And brothers on the corner, perennials,

talking trash, Rabbit’s kin
chasing what they can’t catch
in this stolen, red scrap of home,
this bottom, what Harris snatched
without a blush—the briar patch.