Tip of the Iceberg

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I love when I’m reading a book and I learn about something I didn’t know, or I begin to learn about something I knew but in a different way. I go scampering off to find more on the topic or I fall out of bed trying to get my Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia so I can remind myself who a certain Shakespearean character was. I mentioned before that I am reading R. T. Smith’s book of poetry Outlaw Style and that he has a whole section of his book dedicated to John Wilkes Booth. It really is fascinating to me how Smith takes a character like Booth and looks at him with a variety of different lenses. He has a poem from the perspective of many of the different figures who interacted with Booth during the final episodes of his life: his fiance, his cousin who was forced to leave the country because of him, Boston Corbett, the man who killed Booth to name a few. You bet I’ll be looking into this a little more when I finish the poems. I haven’t finished the book yet, but the poem “Dar He” about Emmett Till is the most striking. I won’t go running off to read more about this topic. I already have and the details of this story are not easily forgotten, even by me (I have a sieve for a brain it seems). Here is how the poem starts:

When I am the lone listener to the antiphony of crickets
and the two wild tribes of cicadas and let my mind
wander to its bogs, it sloughs where no endorphins fire,

I will think on occasion how all memory is longing
for the lost energies of innocence, and then one night –
whisky and the Pleiades, itch from a wasp sting –

I realize it is nearly half a century since that nightmare
in Money, Mississippi, when Emmett Till was dragged
from his Uncle Moses Wright’s cabin by two strangers


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