|Black Confederate Ghost Story
by Terrance Hayes
Attention African-American apparitions hung,
burned or drowned before anyone alive was born:
please make a mortifying midnight appearance
before the handyman standing on my porch
this morning with a beard as wild as Walt Whitman’s.
Except he is the anti-Whitman, this white man
With confederate pins littering his denim cap and jacket.
(And by “mortify” I mean scare the shit out of him.)
I wish I were as tolerant as Walt Whitman
waltzing across the battlefield like a song
covering a cry of distress, but I want to be a storm
covering a confederate parade. The handyman’s
insistence that there were brigades of black
confederates is as oxymoronic as terms like
“civil war,” “free slave.” It is the opposite of history.
Goodbye plantations doused in Sherman’s fire
and homely lonesome women weeping
over blue and gray bodies. Goodbye colored ghosts.
You could have headed north if there was a south
to flee. In Louisiana north still begins with Mississippi,
as far as I know. East is Alabama, west is Texas,
and here is this fool telling me there were blacks
who fought to preserve slavery. Goodbye slavery.
Hello black accomplices and accomplished blacks.
Hello Robert E. Lee bobble head doll
on the handyman’s dashboard whistling Dixie
across our post racial country. Last night
I watched several hours of television and saw
no blacks. NASDAQ. NASCAR. Nadda Black.
I wish there were more ghost stories
about lynched negroes haunting the mobs
that lynched them. Do I believe no one among us
was alive between 1861 and 1865?
I do and I don’t. We all have to go somewhere
and we are probably always already there.
I know only one ghost story featuring a brother
in Carrolton, Alabama, dragged to the center of town
in a storm for some crime he didn’t commit.
As he was hung lightening struck a window
on the courthouse he’s been haunting ever since.
Attention apparitions: this is a solicitation
very much like a prayer. Your presence is requested
tonight when this man is polishing his civil war relics
and singing “Good Ol’ Rebel Soldier”* to himself.
Hello sliding chairs. Hello vicious whispering shadows.
I’m a reasonable man, but I want to be as inexplicable
as something hanging a dozen feet in the air.
*Oh, I'm a good old Rebel soldier, now that's just what I am;
For this "Fair Land of Freedom" I do not give a damn!
I'm glad I fit against it, I only wish we'd won,
And I don't want no pardon for anything I done.