Jacqueline Allen Trimble, Ph.D., lives and writes in Montgomery, Alabama, where she is the chairperson of Languages and Literatures at Alabama State University. Her work has appeared in The Offing, Blue Lake Review and The Griot. Her poetry collection, American Happiness, is published by NewSouth Books. The ironically titled book examines America’s refusal to grapple with hard truths, preferring instead the pretense that everyone and everything is just fine. Of the work Honorée Jeffers wrote, “I longed for her kind of poetry, these cut-to-the-flesh poems, this verse that sings the old time religion of difficult truths with new courage and utter sister-beauty,” and Randall Horton noted, “There is a jewel of a poet in the epicenter of Alabama who adeptly revisits the ugly of race, the power and legacy of familial bonds, the joys and beauty of growing up Southern—our complicated humanity.” Recently awarded a Key West Literary Seminar scholarship, she is currently the recipient of a 2017 literary arts fellowship from the Alabama State Council on the Arts.
Nat Turner Returns for His Stolen Parts and Finds a Sermon of Rage
Nat Turner makes the slow trek through
the attics of America. He wishes
to pull himself together. He knocks on doors.
And the ones who answer clutch his parts like charms.
And the ones who answer call him “apparition,”
“ghost,” “spook.” No matter. Nights,
he creeps between the sutures of history
and takes himself back. Nat Turner walks
through America. He meets a black man.
Hey man, “How does your rage fare?”
The man says, “My rage is as coy
as public impotence
as long and blunt as a billystick
as black as a cruiser
as careless as a traffic stop
as pale and slender as hand rolled cigarettes
as real as toy guns
as bloody as blood
on a white t-shirt
in the front seat of a paid off hearse.”
Nat Turner walks tall through America.
He meets a black woman. “Sister,” he says,”
“How does your rage fare?”
“My rage,” she says, “Is a dragging by the hair,
a fissure in the head, a shuttered eye, a city-wide lie, Lord,
a you shalt not, a page five story, a that’s my baby,
a bomb unmoored.
My rage is dead girl smiling
a dead boy sagging, a dead man breathing,
a dead woman swinging.
It’s as nimble, Lord, as a sassy tongue.”
Nat Turner lifts his eyes to the hills.
The whole of him is avenging angel.
He absolves the wicked and blind with his sword.
“Lord,” he prays, “Lord, Lord, Lord
build a hedge of protection so high
we can’t see a thing but our rage.
Let rage keeps us woke all night
and all day. Let us sharpen our daggers
on its whetstone. Let us lower our blades
again and again for mercy and love.
Our rage, yes Lord, our rage
more powerful than despair,
able to leap tall headstones
What if the Supreme Court Were Really the Supremes?
Oh, how their bedazzled robes glisten
as they glide into the courtroom,
open wide their satin-gloved arms, flutter
their long, store-bought eyelashes
and croon, “My world is empty without you, babe.”
Even Cindy Birdsong envies their hips
as they pop and sway, dip and snap.
Each one a lady.
Would these judges made new
by the rhythm and the blues,
the ooh, ooh baby magic of a Motown spell,
ever hold the sequined fish of my voting rights
above their lovely bouffant heads,
tip its iridescent scales toward the camera,
then gut it, like a dinner trout?
When Prince Comes Back From Heaven
You will sing to me Raspberry Beret.
I will be wearing one. Just like I did
when I sat in the fourth row in love
with you and the man who held my hand.
I gave that man his hand back,
but you are still my boy. Come back,
my charming one. And yes,
I will ride with you anywhere. And yes,
wear the Afro and the purple suit.
Leave the platforms
with your insatiable mother.
Your father will feed the doves.
American Happiness, NewSouth Books, 2016