Against the Horizon

Photograph depicting a railroad track destroyed by fire during the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. / Courtesy of the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum

Every hour or so a train tears in
like a trumpet, barrels through what was
once the depot, now the Jazz Hall
of Fame. The tracks ring louder than
massacre. Older than the land claimed
by force. Removal. It is a single-file
stampede with the stamina of steam, no,
coal, no, diesel. Only night knows
the plants’ pliant smolder. How muted
stacks secrete what’s barely visible
by sunset. Film that filters its sin.
The town shuts down at ten, but a single
finch beckons my window, perches
power line, preens its disheveled self.
Its feathers are primed in dust. In what
rids the parasites, & what kills us.
The sky thins into a holographic squint.
My eyes burn against the horizon.

Photo © Melissa Lukenbaugh

Clemonce Heard is the winner of the 2020 Anhinga–Robert Dana Prize for Poetry, selected by Major Jackson. His collection, Tragic City, which investigates the events of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, is forthcoming from Anhinga Press in October 2021.