DECEMBER 3, 1947

By Mark Lager

From Fall 2017

 News came down to me,
 William Johnson,
 about Columbia Record Company
 I hustle just enough change
 to ride the train
 to Dallas
 and freeze
 standing outside

 Waiting, waiting, waiting
 all alone
 that winter night

 Until white men’s voices
 guide me upstairs
 to a hotel room

 I feel like Jesus
 in the temple
 starting his ministry

 Jesus and me
 both begin at age thirty
 He could see
 all of his disciples
 as he sat on the mount

 All I have is this microphone
 three minute songs
 as I sit on this rickety chair

 I tell them
 about my mama Mary
 about His blood

 This time
 I can shout as loud
 as I want

 And tell them
 to tear all those Customs Houses down
 no police here to fear

 I hear the white men’s voices
 they’re packing up to leave
 I hear them say “It’s getting late.”

 I’ve got no place to stay
 it’s going to be so
 cold tonight

 My throat is torn
 but, Lord, I’m not finished

 Lord, no pain of mine
 is as lowdown
 as your pain

 I see your mama Mary
 her teardrops splashing
 on your scratched face

 I see my mama Mary
 my teardrops splashing
 on her withered face

 I scrape 

 dried marrow 
 from those holes
 in your hands and feet

 I scrape

 your wounds, oh Lord

 I scrape

 dried dust
 from those corners
 of my mama’s eyes

 I bend

 these strings
 kneeling knees, crooked spine

 digging the dirt of my grave