Five Points of 1906

by Jim Murphy

Overhead glint of electric feeds,
the car jerks across a siding, straight
into the drumfire center of the riot.
Sunburned and shirtless figures,
distribution of bricks and bottles,
feel of a stone in every fist
heaved up, glanced against the body,
a strip of green paint gone,
another, another, another
skips the car, dents the roof,
clatter of hooves coming fast
from the narrow approaches,
sealing off the intersection,
and the sidearms now appear
just beneath the riders’ armpits
hands still on the reins, a moment’s
silence where

the music teacher
tightens his coat
pulls his hat brim
coughs just once

              Oh Lord

And someone starts the shouting,
a woman’s voice, indistinct except
the name that hammers every
accusation home.  The name itself
a cracking egg, a perforated drum,
The World Turned Upside Down
again, the reptile’s tail that curves
o-ho this a-way, o-ho that a-way
back on itself, that lashes
forward without warning, shaped
in human press of human faces,
teeth and tongues, eye whites and gums,
a half-naked advance that could be
anyone, now close enough to touch.

Jim Murphy teaches at the University of Montevallo, just south of Birmingham, Alabama. His chapbook, The Memphis Sun, received the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Award, and is published by Kent State University Press. His poems have appeared in Gulf Coast, The Southern Review, Triquarterly, and other journals.