By Mark Lager

From Fall 2017

 Night I was born
 rain dripped down on me
 25th of January

 Christ was crucified
 on an April afternoon
 three hours of darkness

 His mother Mary cried 
 when they wrapped him
 in that gray shroud

 My mama’s name was Mary
 she died during a dust storm
 in the month of May

 That dust always blew in
 from west Texas
 like in Pharaoh days

  “Motherless children have a hard time
  When mother is dead
  No one will love you like mother will.”

 Listened to my pa
 groan and moan
 Mary, Mary, Mary

 Heard the trains pass
 rattle, rattle, rattle
 middle of the night

 Father married again
 a lady who slept around
 he beat her

 Tied the tin cup
 round my neck
 took me to the corner

 Sweat on my brow
 blinding my eyes
 I sing for my supper

 I sing to the flies buzzing
 round my head
 spinning circles

 I sing to the cicadas screeching
 through long, long, long
 hot summer days

 I sing to the crickets chirping
 as twilight fades
 and night cools my soaked clothes

 One Sunday morning
 sun black as sackcloth
 I stare straight up

 burn my eyes
 I’m black as sackcloth
 hiding inside
 Mama, I’m scared

 They held my hands
 at the river
 head went under

  And the earth was void
  Darkness on the face of the deep
  Spirit of God moved on the waters

 I feel Him in the soil
 in the stones
 beneath my feet

 Mother’s never gonna hold my hand
 she’s gone
 so I build a guitar
 I scrape this choke
 in my throat cross these strings

 But no one’s listening
 in Pendleton, Brenham, Hearne
 so I hitch to Houston

 Fourth Ward
 “The Reservation”
 Red Light District

 No red lights blazing for me
 “Lord, let your light from the lighthouse
  Shine on me.”

 Smoke stings my lungs
 crowd chattering

 So I raise my voice
 I shout and shout
 until my throat is sore

 Until I rasp
 and when I can sing no more
 I slide, Lord, I slide

 Broken bottleneck
 some drunk shattered
 on the ground in front of me

 Brass ring
 some lover
 left behind

 Pocket knife
 because a blind man
 needs protection

 Then the war was on
 rations and rumbling belly
 registered for the draft

 President Wilson says
 “War to end all wars”
 but he still wars on us blacks

 “If I had my way
  I’d tear this building down.”
 I heard people cheer and clap

 Then I heard a white man’s voice
 shout me down
 clamp those cold cuffs on my wrists

 Twenty four hours in jail
 New Orleans 

 There ain’t no place in this world, oh Lord,
 no place meant for me