The Ballad of Othello Clemence

By George Elliott Clarke George Elliott Clarke
There’s a black wind howlin’ by Whylah Falls;
There’s a mad rain hammerin’ the flowers;
There’s a shotgunned man moulderin’ in petals;
There’s a killer chucklin’ to himself;
There’s a mother keenin’ her posied son;
There’s a joker amblin’ over his bones.
Go down to the Sixhiboux River, hear it cry,
“Othello Clemence is dead and his murderer’s free!”

O sang from Whylah Falls and lived by sweat,
Walked that dark road between desire and regret.
He pitched lumber, crushed rock, calloused his hands:
He wasn’t a saint but he was a man.
Scratch Seville shot him and emptied his skull,
Tore a hole in his gut only Death could fill.
Now his martyr-mother witnesses in cries
Over his corpse cankered white by lilies.

There’s a black wind snakin’ by Whylah Falls;
There’s a river of blood in Jarvis County;
There’s a government that don’t know how to weep;
There’s a mother who can’t get no sleep.
Go down to the Sixhiboux, hear it moan
Like a childless mother far, far, from home,
“There’s a change that’s gonna have to come,
I said, a change that’s gonna have to come.”

“The Ballad of Othello Clearance” from Whylah Falls. Copyright (c) 2001 George Elliot Clarke. Used by permission of Polestar Book Publishers. Polestar is an imprint of Raincoast Books.

Source: Whylah Falls (Rain Coast Books, 1990)

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Poet George Elliott Clarke

Subjects Living, History & Politics, Social Commentaries, The Body, Race & Ethnicity, Nature, Sorrow & Grieving, Death

Poetic Terms Imagery, Rhymed Stanza, Ballad, Refrain

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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