Spring 1991 • Vol. XIII No. 2 PoetryApril 1, 1991 |

Knights of the White Camellia & Deacons of Defense

They were in a big circleBeside Mitch Creek, as it murmuredLike a murderer tossing in his sleepBetween a wife & daughter, demureAs Sartre's Respectable ProstituteOn a feathered bed in July.The Sacrament. A gallonJug of bootleg passes from handTo hand. An orgy of nightbirdsScreeched under the guillotinedMoon that hung like a targetReflected against each robe.Bibles, icons, & old lies. NamesDead in their mouths like brokenTreaties. A spired & cupolaedDominion for bloodhounds. ApparitionsTied to the Lily-cross & Curse. Next day, in the hard light,In a show of force,Dark roses out-bloomedCamellias, a radianceNot borrowed from the gleamOf gun barrels. Sons& daughters of sharecroppers,Who made sawmills& cotton fields hum for generations,Encircled the slow-footedMarchers like an ebony shieldBullhorns blared, GermanShepherds whined on choke chains,& swaggering billy clubs nudged spring.Resistance startled crape myrtle& magnolia, while a clandestinePerfume

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Yusef Komunyakaa’s seventeen books of poetry include Taboo, Dien Cai Dau, Neon Vernacular (for which he received the Pulitzer Prize), Warhorses, and most recently The Chameleon Couch and Testimony. His many honors include the William Faulkner Prize (Universite Rennes, France), the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Kingsley Tufts Award for Poetry, and the 2011 Wallace Stevens Award. His plays, performance art, and libretti have been performed internationally and include Saturnalia, Testimony, and Gilgamesh: A Verse Play. He teaches at New York University.

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They were in a big circleBeside Mitch Creek, as it murmuredLike a murderer tossing in his sleepBetween a wife & daughter, demureAs Sartre's Respectable ProstituteOn a feathered bed in July.The […]

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