Larry Beckett

Harriet Tubman
from U. S. Rivers

Out at the Highway 17
bridge, over
the Combahee River
Jordan’s deep, the engineers,
under the marsh, uncover
rice fields, unearth
They call her Araminta
these shards, all burned:
and hire her out to masters
site of the raid

in sixty-three: for dozing
at the cradle,
whipscar, her face:
the ferry crossing and
wide: these Union gunboats:
She says she’s Harriet
in command Tell
old Pharoah and she walks
up the Eastern Shore,
out of Maryland,

morning, early When the sun
come back
blast horns, lift flags
to the slave huts the first
quail calls:
no arms open to her: she lays
the underground
railroad Follow They crowd
the launches Let my
people, and won’t let go

till she sings Milk and honey
to peace them on
the other side Black soldiers
burn down the bridge,
fire the plantations:
seven hundred fifty-six
go free, hitch rides, the big
rigs rolling on
the widened highway: Call her
go down Moses.

Larry Beckett © 2017

Jornada del Muerto

from U.S. Rivers

First Atom Bomb Test

South, by
the badlands, into the Jornada
del Muerto:
minus twenty minutes: countdown:
the fugitives
from the pueblo revolt, no water,
no wood: the ten-
story tower: the bomb,
at Trinity: faire is foule
black lava,

dry lakes: ground zero,
five thirty a.m.
Mountain War Time:
the sky brighter than day-
light and foule is faire
as they look back
over the Oscura range,
the fireball, rising,
and the mushroom cloud hover
through the fogge

white sands, wavering
under the haze, fallout
and filthie aire: the shock
radius equals
five hundred sixty-four
times t plus the pillar
of fire, to the power,
luminous, red,
So faire and foule a day.
We are downwinders.

Larry Beckett © 2017