PROLOGUE: THREE FATHERS
Not a body thought to bring food
(least no more than would do him good),
and, if the promised other men
don't arrive soon, then the green corn
in the field will get to looking
okay to eat without cooking,
to risk one's teeth on. Eben Kent
is that hungry, takes the brisk walk,
shucks the husk, rips it off the stalk,
chews kernels like elephant tusks
tear coconuts open to suck
all the milk out. Now he can think.
"It'll be great fun," John Ross had said,
"Great things are gonna get done --
bring this war to a quick end."
Workingmen everywhere betrayed
by the declaration;
Mr. Wilson had to pay,
and the common wisdom was
ordinary folk could make him
by joining the rebellion
in Oklahoma. Farmers cut
the Western telegraph lines,
and Washington: Halt the supplies,
the idea, bring the gov'ment down.
Now hundreds of folks are damn near
starving. All that's come to an end
is Eben's granger idealism.
Ross will not be forgiven soon.
He has done with the raw corn
when it happens. Hoofbeat thunder
shakes him like a barnyard dance
awakens when the music starts.
One rider points a shotgun,
finishing Ross' mulecart
as the others rake their havoc
across the shantytown camp
with broomsticks, clubs, and torches.
Eben gets down on his haunches.
Unarmed, from the tall corn he watches
the "patriot" posses show their scorn.
They tear tents and shatter lanterns;
beds of straw burn and white placards
bleed black ink as they overturn
the dissidents' makeshift cistern
onto the picket-sign store.
The Russian monopoly
on revolution will stand,
but theirs on pogroms is no more.
From behind Eben, a tap --
one of the white-cloaked men.
Startled, he almost jumps up,
but John Ross prevents him,
hands him a hooded sheet like his
and says, "Here, quick, put on this!"
Eben complies and they make
their way, disguised, to a horse.
"Where did you get all this?,"
Eben asks, whispering through a hole
in the mask. "Off of one of their men,"
Ross answers as he takes the reigns,
"After I had to kill him."
Hoofbeat thunder builds below them.
Eben holds onto his friend,
a sickness in his stomach
to travel on from the raw corn
and all lingering ideals worn thin.
John gives the horse a tighter squeeze
and two still living men are gone,
sheets flapping in their rushing breeze.