John Brown

 

John Brown, you scare me!
You look like a man possessed by a demon.
You look like a man who could kill his son.
You look like a man who believes in a principle,
John Brown.

He drew blood, your son did.
You took him to the woodshed and whipped him;
but then you had him whip you, harder and harder....
now what kind o' crazy-assed thing is that to be doin',
John Brown?

You were a farmer, tanner, wool-trader,
land-dealer, surveyor, shepherd.
Failed at them all, went bankrupt.
But loved your family, held it together,
John Brown.

You lived with black people at North Elba,
seated free black men in your pew at church....
They expelled you, didn't they
--those white hypocrites--,
John Brown?


Your sons murdered pro-slavery men in Kansas,
loud-mouthed, innocent men,
dragged them from their beds, in the name of God,
chopped off their arms, sliced their throats....
You were there,

John Brown.

Somehow you knew
--what were the odds that 200,000 men would die?--,
somehow you knew the earth would be drenched in blood,
somehow you knew rivers would run red with blood....
How did you know? How did you know, 

John Brown?

 

                   [photo courtesy of WGBH, Boston (www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia)]  

 

Hear Jerry/Lucius read this poem.    This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems.