Huckleberry Finn

Such a whimsical name for a po’ white boy

born in a shack where the rafters creaked

when the gales blew and the rain dripped in

from the overflow

to drum you down.

 

Always hungry, scavenging food,

loping away like a sad young wolf

in the dead afternoons when the crickets chirped

and shivered in the heat

on the cotton bolls.

 

When the church bells clanged

the townsfolk dressed in Sunday best.

knelt on fading prayer mats and heads bowed

they chanted prayers for mongrel boys

who lived on the edge.

 

Did you envy Tom with his fenced-in life

and his hair combed smooth as a mockingbird’s wing?

Did you envy him when your Pa rolled in

drunk as a skunk to ‘lick your hide’

until you bled?

 

Feral child – you lured me into a Mississippi world

to float aboard a rickety raft

while paddle steamers churned the foam

and glided by

like Memphis queens.

 

Together we pulled on hickory pipes,

hooked us a catfish from a stream

on porch-swing days and bullfrog nights

where willows wept their trailing tears

for runaway slaves and po’ white boys

like you.

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