Thank you for stopping by my brand new website, where I will be sharing my published poems and essays, announcing forthcoming publications, highlighting work that might be of interest, as well as occasionally musing on my writing life.
As I begin this journey, the timing of my June launch brings to mind not only graduations (stayed tuned for more on that in the coming week!) but also of the 55th anniversary of civil rights leader Medgar Evers' assassination on June 12. In 1963, Evers was gunned down and killed in the driveway of his home, with his wife and three children just steps away inside, on a summer evening in Jackson, Mississippi. Evers pulled his body around his car to the front door of his house, but he never made it inside. His assassin, Klan member Byron de la Beckwith, who publicly bragged about the murder, was tried twice in the 60s, but each time was released by a deadlocked jury. For decades after, Evers' wife Myrlie pressed for yet another trial, knowing the first two were corrupt. With new evidence and new witnesses, a third trial commenced in the early 90s. In 1994, Byron de la Beckwith was finally convicted of the murder he committed nearly thirty years earlier; he spent the remainder of his life in prison.
A few years ago, Konstantin and I took a road trip that began in Memphis, with our first stop at the Lorraine Hotel, site of the infamous balcony where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated (the hotel has since been transformed into the critically important and profoundly moving National Civil Rights Museum; visitors can peer inside the very room where King spent his last night). From there, we drove through Mississippi, from the delta, to Oxford, down the Natchez-Trace Parkway to Jackson, and on to Biloxi on the Gulf Coast. We planned a stop in Jackson specifically so we could see Medgar Evers' home. We drove through the city until we located his family's small one-story home (now owned by Tougaloo College) in an unassuming neighborhood. It was a sobering and brief visit, as I imagined that fateful night so many years ago. I share with you here my poem, "Medgar Evers' House," which was published this winter in the inaugural issue of Metafore Literary Magazine, along with two other poems of mine -- "Cherry Picking" and "Natchez-Trace Parkway Haibun."
MEDGAR EVERS’ HOUSE
Ann E. Wallace
I never pictured Medgar Evers’ house in color.
The clean lines of the house, the middle class
Jackson, Mississippi neighborhood
were fixed for me in black and white
by documentary footage that froze
the home in grays, marking a time when
colors did not mix on camera.
The house sits empty now, a relic
of an era caught on film, his family removed
from the blood-stained tarmac where their father,
husband was shot down in the driveway,
and pulled his body, strong man that he was
as Myrlie remembered, to the door,
toward her, toward the children
crouched inside as they had been taught.
But Medgar Evers’ house is not black and white.
The pale green walls sit easily on the city
plot, rising to meet the overhang of the low
roof, the home unassuming behind the vibrant
lawn, trees standing tall, healthy around it.
Mississippi in June is lush, verdant,
teeming with the potential of early summer.
But when Medgar Evers finished his meeting
that long ago night, the sun was gone and the greens
darkened to forest, to black, so when he swung
into the carport, his headlights illuminating
the house where his family slept, are what enabled
the man in the shadows to take aim and fire.