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