GULFPORT, CIRCA 1963


Sister Gary in her Sunday britches- 
Platinum lapel pin and garnet earscrews, 
Skin flashing cold like blue-black fire 
Against coifed, henna hair and cheeks, creme rouged 
-Caught the mainline down to Woolworth’s. 

Thoughts of nonviolence barked like canines 
With each reach and pull of the bellcord: 
Coke-Cola plant askance in the distance, 
Arched turrets of St. John's Cathedral, 
And, at last, on 25th, Hancock's lighthouse 

Marking the place her trip began. 
A day prior she'd read in the paper, 
Negress Causes Disturbance at Five and Dime; 
No mention was made of the billy that belonged to no one 
Yet found its way up sides Miss Mary Lou's head. 

Stepping lively from the iron-gray portal 
Down a cobblestone offshoot of 25th, 
Swinging her pocketbook (a stropped-edged threat), 
Sister Gary made her way to the counter to sip 
Tepid coffee warmed by a promise not kept. 

As a bullet-head man leaned across her shoulder, 
Whispering words more bitter than her swillish brew, 
She imagined the sanguine lead for that evening's paper: 
Second Disturbance at Five and Dime. Negress Assaulted. 
Assailant Identified by Trail of Blood.