For the Confederate Dead

For the Confederate Dead

by Kevin Young


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The award-winning “lively and excellent collection” (Los Angeles Times) about the South and its legacy, about African-American griefs and passages, from the author of Jelly Roll and Black Maria, a poet who has “set himself apart from his peers with his supple, variable, blues-inflected lines” (Publishers Weekly).

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375711411
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/09/2008
Pages: 176
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Kevin Young is the author of five previous collections of poetry. His book Jelly Roll was a finalist for the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and won the Paterson Poetry Prize. His most recent collection, For the Confederate Dead, won the 2007 Quill Award for poetry. He has also been the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship, and is currently the Atticus Haygood Professor of English and Creative Writing and curator of the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library at Emory University in Atlanta.

Read an Excerpt

TABERNACLE Since they shared the samemonogram, JimCrow & Jesusoften found themselvesgetting the other’s dress shirtsback from the wash.This was after Jimhad made it big& could afford suchsmall luxuries. He& Jesus mostly metSundays in churchwhere Jesus came for the singingbut stayed for the sermon& to see whether the preacherever got it right.Jim, you guessed it,came for the collection plate& after stayedfor the hotplates of the LadiesAuxiliary (no apostrophe).To onefolks prayed,the other they obeyed.FOR THE CONFEDERATE DEADI go with the team also. –WhitmanThese are the last daysmy television says. Tornadoes, morerain, overcast, a chanceof sun but I do nottrust weathermen,never have. In my fridge onlythe milk makes sense–expires. No one, much lessmy parents, can tell me whymy middle name is Lowell,and from my tableacross from the ConfederateMonument to the dead (that palefinger bone) a plaquedeclares war–not Civil,or Betweenthe States, but for SouthernIndependence. In this café, below sea- and eye-level a mural runsthe wall, flaking, a plantationscene most do not see–it’s too mucharound the knees, heighthof a child. In its fields Negroes bendto pick the endless white.In livery a few drive carriageslike slaves, whipping the horses, facesblank and peeling. The old hotellobby this once was no longerwelcomes guests–maroon ledger,bellboys gone butfor this. Like an inheritancethe owner found itstripping hundred years(at least) of paintand plaster. More leaves each day.In my movie there are nohorses, no heroes,only draftees fleeinginto the pines, some fewwho survive, gravelywounded, lyingburrowed beneath the dead–silent until the enemybayonets what is believedto be the lastof the breathing. It is getting later.We preparefor wars no longerthere. The weatherinevitable, unusual–more this time of yearthan anyone ever seed. The earthshudders, the air–if I did not knowbetter, I would thinkwe were living all alonga fault. How lateit has gotten . . .Forget the weathermanwhose maps move, blink,but stay crossedwith lines none has seen. Raceinstead against the almostrain, digging beside the monument(that giant anchor)till we strikewater, sweatfighting the sleepwalking air.POSTSCRIPTSThe world is a widow.Storms surround us, areasof low& high pressuremoving through–should be gone tomorrow.Rain from the skylike planes.We pull ourselves upfrom bedor death, wanderstreets like ghosts,lost guests.Everyone’s a townwith the shops shuttingdown, no hoursposted. Even the radiostays closed–only newsor fools stillbelieving love.Traffic that won’t move.In the crossing, a white hearsehanging a left.I want to be that womanjust ahead, tapping her footout a car window, bare,in time to a musicI can’t quite hear.September 2001

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