it was the shoes

that gaped open

their bottom lips

a river of spying eyes 

tell no lies

just the wayward procession

of blind lyman kinder henry’s running

fore earth had a chance to kiss his heels

master charlie matthews found it dang blasted

knee-slapping humorous

blind man 37 want to run

away from a plantation

no master charlie say to edward the overseer

and solomon the driver

don’t go out with my hounds

on the scent of a blind nigger

let him run to and fro

if them stalks of sugar cane

don’t put a splinter in his step

the river will swallow him

in one nigger sized gulp

so hold off on the hounds

I need that niggers hands intact

sides                he just running for fun

we should all get our kicks

out of the pretentious nigger boy

I done had my laugh for today


this ole charlie talking to ya

I’m not bout to waste no bullet on yo head

you ain’t no good to me dead


I need yo fiddling hands boy

grace is calling you

grace yo fiddle

now you remember her

I need you       boy

and I owns you

by the good Christian god above        you mine Lyman

yo hands gon make my daughter’s cotillion

as fancy as them new york city soirees

dancing sweet steps waltzing feet

gents and ladies

prominent well to do citizens

of lousiana      

when you tired come on back

me you            and grace yo fiddle     got a date




the natural-born truth

folks didn’t know was that lyman kinder henry

could see and even more menacing

he could read paper trees stars herbs rocks animal eyes

you name it and lyman had been taught

how it lives and how to make it your friend          not your foe

let me take you back             see when lyman was born

his mama night jasmine cooked up more than

master charlie’s favorite chicken stew

she and her mama a full-blooded malinke speaking bambara woman

devised a recipe would keep lyman by his mother’s side  till death

lyman was all night jasmine had left in this part of the world

after traveler the name of her half wolof half chickasaw Indian husband

was sold up the road freed then killed

by a pickax mob for fancying himself man enough to purchase through barter

his wife son and mother in law’s freedom

with his carpenter hands

that traveler could make furniture from sight

one glance and he’d spend a whole day hammering

and sawing you out a table worth better quality

than white folks and LAWD knows

white folks don’t like niggers showing them up

so truth be told traveler’s travels was ended in part for that reason also

master charlie spend all that money in france to buy wooden furnishings

and here this raggedy patchy headed nigger busting

his pants at the seams cause he so full to the core of muscle

and drive and he can recreate france from master charlie’s own backyard

next thing doing

the call went out and the axes fell






broken man-flesh      strewn

from one side of matthews plantation

to waaaaaaaay down yonder

near row houses of po white folk talking trash

nobody to bless the pieces

believe I’ll run on

see what the end gon be

said I’ll run on

see what the end gon be

lyman run on

you ain’t gon worry me

lyman run on

slave catcher at your feet

lyman run on

see what the end gon be

lyman run on

charlie can’t slow yo feet

lyman grew up hiding his sight

his mama would lead him into destruction

as to avoid destruction

charlie matthews assumed

he was a deformed nigger

from the useless belly

of a pickaniny mama

so it was decreed no man’s seed

from that day forward would enter night jasmine

cause she would probably bring into the world

more plantation liability

and one niggra’s child bearing womb

when matthes’s plantation harbored 30 or so

could afford to be sacrificed

so the truth was discarded

from black and white folks alike

as was told to everybody

lyman was blind dumb and not worth nothing

so allowing him the right to be raised

was not master charlie’s kindness

but the unfortunate nature of life

so lyman was raised to be dumb in daylight

and learned all he could hold in one tiny black brain beneath the shadows

so as he grew knowledge and hunger

for freedom oozed from every open orifice

soon enough with mama dead and grandmamma dead

no daddy no nothing but mental fear and anguish

keeping him trapped in quicksand              on slave land

he decided it was as good a time as any to

take-off master’s hand me down boots

then he whispered something sweet

between the strings of his daddy’s hand-carved fiddle

that fiddle was the only reason master charlie remembered he existed

cause for a blind nigger he could work his hands

so master charlie’s dependence on lyman’s gift

deciphering sounds               strong ears and delicate fiddling hands

kept him under the radar of jealous blacks

and white pocketbooks eager to barter with ole charlie

eager to snatch up the wondrous specimen of a maturing boyman

believe I’ll run on

see what the end gon be

said I’ll run on

see what the end gon be

lyman run on

you ain’t gon worry me

lyman run on

slave catcher at your feet

lyman run on

see what the end gon be

lyman run on

charlie can’t slow yo feet

of course, there’s no record

of what happened to lyman kinder henry

but the recollection of things that showed their ugly faces

was something miraculous

when charlie came to the white realization

that lyman might have gotten himself hurt or even worse

those hands might have gotten blistered and bruised

trampling through the brush attached to nigger lyman

he sent the catchers out

and they came back slumped shoulders

dogs a mangled mess of river water moss and mud earth

no lyman on their breath

no blood-stained shirt or trousers’

no nothing but confusion

nobody dared admit thoughts

maybe nigger lyman could see

maybe all them years

the nigger was laughing within

trouble with that account

was nobody in bondage could afford to openly                  believed it

cause master charlie was dead set on keeping that hush

it was illogical that a nigger

could have that much smarts to out maneuver a white man

sometimes when worse came to worse

slaves laughed at the one

they knew got away

but it was plantation law

any slave caught uttering the name of lyman was to be the recipient of 37 lashes

for the 37 years, lyman had existed on matthews

as master charlie put it

he drowned                 lyman drowned

you hear me niggers

so let the dead rest

and if you thinking of following him to the river

you gon suffer his fate

sitting in the belly of a gator




if you can imagine what them boots looked like

tongues dragging the ground

poking their grimy scarred pits

laces sagging shredded strings of matted cotton

swirling every which way the wind blew

soles partially detached from the body                   quivering

in the wind

the sound of grinding teeth and leather giggles

as they were lifted by ole charlie and handed to solomon the driver

as a gift for spending two days on the hunt of lyman’s scent

the shoes were laughing at matthes plantation

and ole master charlie

and all them highly educated white citizens of Louisiana

who didn’t allow slaves

no semblance of information

that might make them realize their own human nature

their natural instinct to rise up and declare a sudden movement

of the feet a rapacious motion as if flying through air

cracking stalks of sugarcane in an emblazoned trail of freedom

but lyman would live for the day those shoes would howl

and run and run and run and keep on keeping on homeward bound