He started with the tune his mother had hummed
in Ohio, nostalgia he’d carried for years,
and by Sunday afternoon he had the words.
A triumph, already; he whistled the banjo’s part.
(Himself a sympathizer from the North,
called copperhead, called traitor by his own kin.)
Something lively, some git-up-and-git they’d wanted
and didn’t he deliver—
Miss Susan got seven encores the first night.
That gave them their tune, their Negro walk-around—
Look away, look away, look away, they sang.
Vipers, that spring, spread thick on the ground.
Rachel Richardson, “Dan Emmett Writes ‘Dixie,’ 1859” from Copperhead. Copyright © 2011 by Rachel Richardson. Reprinted by permission of Carnegie Mellon University Press.
(Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2011)
Poems by Rachel Richardson