Substantiation, part 1

By Jake Adam York 1972–2012
And the way the jury chose to believe the ridiculous stories of the defense. . . .
     — Mamie Till, 1955

. . . with truth absent, hypocrisy and myth have flourished. . . .
    Look, January 1956

The sheriff says it wasn't Till we pulled from the river,
that man was as white as I am, white as cotton
blowed by the cotton gin fan that weighed him down,
looked like he'd lain there weeks, not a kid at all.
He was a stranger just out of Money, recalled
by a store clerk, a hobo, and a crossroad guitarist.
The reporter finds them at the once abandoned crossing.
They say it's like the sheriff says, came up one night,
headed Clarksdale way, another one, hat pulled down,
right behind. Three days later, the bluesman says,
a plague of starlings gathered into little boys
those who fished and found the dead man's foot.
The reporter stares into his cataracted, cotton eyes.
He cannot find them, no matter where he looks.

Jake Adam York, "Substantiation, part 1" from A Murmuration of Starlings. Copyright © 2008 by Jake Adam York.  Reprinted by permission of Southern Illinois University Press.

Source: A Murmuration of Starlings (Southern Illinois University Press, 2008)

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Poet Jake Adam York 1972–2012

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Subjects Living, Death, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Race & Ethnicity


Poet and teacher Jake Adam York was born in Florida and raised in Alabama, the son of a steelworker and a history teacher. He earned degrees from Auburn University and Cornell, and was an associate professor at the University of Colorado-Denver. His books of poetry include Murder Ballads (2005), which won the Elixir Press Poetry Prize; A Murmuration of Starlings (2008), winner of the Colorado Book Award in Poetry; Persons . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Death, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Race & Ethnicity

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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