by Charles Reznikoff
Several white men went at night to the Negro's
shot into it,
and set fire to his cotton on the gallery
his wife and children ran under the bed
and as the firing from guns and pistols went on
and the cotton blazed up, ran through a side door
into the woods.
The Negro himself, badly wounded, fled to the
house of a neighbor—
a white man--
and got inside.
He was followed,
and one of those who ran after him
put a shotgun against the white man's door
and shot a hole through it.
Justice, however, was not to be thwarted,
for five of the men who did this to the Negro
for "unlawfully and maliciously
injuring and disfiguring"-
the white man's property.
Charles Reznikoff wrote at length in verse of the black experience in America in, Testimony: The United States (1885-1915), Recitative. A refrain entitled "Negroes," is comprised of court testimony from cases involving blacks, rendered into verse patterns by the poet. Testimony dispassionately allows the reality of that life to speak for itself. - Aldon Lynn Nielsen
Reznikoff allows the irony of America's racial injustices to foreground itself in these pieces, as in this one, which makes no comment on the fact that there were no charges for destroying a black man's property or for assaulting him and his family. - from "Reading Race" White American Poets and the Racial Discourse in the Twentieth Century. Copyright © 1986 by The University of Georgia Press.