THREE POEMS by Kamau Rucker

Cotton and Creek Water

We cruise through farmland speaking
of the charm of small towns,
passing fields of cotton.

Cotton has jagged stems, spilled blood
is rich with iron, equal in proportion
to the earth’s chemistry.

It’s the land where Job was
reading in the dark from fear
of being whipped, reading blind.

It’s the land where Samuel ran
so fast across the river,
he was walking on water.

And what about the winter,
bounded in by the frozen ponds
and frost, clothing thread bare?

A shack stands by an unmarked road,
not far from the swamp,
half the field is filled with soy.

The swamp waters are running high.
Everything on the thin strip of beach
we seek is a fossil, sent back by the ocean.

The shack sells grandma’s preserves, her
dressings, her cooked-down cider, homegrown
vegetables, and salt pork pa cuts into slabs

as we speak of the charm of small towns,
driving through farmland,
fields of cotton; discussing antiques.


The Ballad of Billy Joe

Billy lost a ton of weight at sea,
six months of day, six months of night.
Sea is a process, solitude
reduced to radio noise.

The thing he remembers is pure dark
at midnight, too dark to see your hand,
Arriving home, he always walked
as if balance was a faulty theory.

“It’s all steady,” he declares.
“It’s all steady.”
“Deliver them back.”


For Hemlock and Atlanta

We have always feared the water,
the earth split.

Drink, this is my body,

the earth’s version
and we pray,
not because we seek mercy
but because we have always loved the earth,
and the flood is not our sin
but a tragic misunderstanding,
a letter sent in error
to chastisers
long since gone.

We have always feared the water,
prayed and given tribute,
wailed, chanted, and burned
candles in a long night –
every season (summer, spring,
fall, winter with the bodies frozen in,

our dead). They have not found
all of the bodies. The first in dream
and water, with the earth split,
the water as dark as blood.


Kamau Rucker — I am a teacher and singer/songwriter. Additional work includes play writing. I completed a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at George Mason University and am a Cave Canem Fellow. Recent publication credits include: The Heat, The Day, and This Moment (San Francisco Bay Press), Conditions of Light (Pudding House Publications), Salamander, and Drunken Boat.

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