You cross 60 years,
back to home town limits,
gravel roads, hardscrabble yards
thick with aromas of barbecue.
You spot a boy squatting behind a screen door.
He might be you back then,
but he's black, his ebony dreams
buried in the white heaps of America.
His stare turns you back to the car.
You drive away from that first home
where your mother knew no better
than to stay and suffer defeat,
where the fields beyond the yard
were filled with diesel beasts
mired in summer mud
waiting for fathers to ride
their lumbering frames
into the last dignity left standing:
work until there was no work,
die when it was all done.
The life left there leaves you hostage
to memories of hunger and thirst,
tongues keen for drops of rain,
white skins waxed dark by the sun,
children evaporating into colors,
the stuff of imperfect rainbows.
You always were and always will be
a ghost scattered across the years.