Skip to main content

Jeffery Renard Allen's Poetry


--in memory of addie lee pulliam (nee griffis), grandmother, died june 1, 1980

i. low down evening
cotton mighty thin
        hurry hurry
        the gal you love is dead
snatch your suitcase
screw on your hat and
take up down the road

tar brush slippers
running son of a gun

amble up to the skinny church
(wish i had me a
heaven of my own)

got crepe hanging on the door and
black mat to scrape feet clean

horse-haired deacon packing them
from floor to ceiling and ever which

walls clapping
and chatter
sweaty gospel swaying over
pew and pulpit

farmer boy from mr. wright's place
(way yonder behind that western hill)
stroke the bell

rise now and take your place
forward and front

your hair ain't curly
your eyes ain't blue
guess any ole excuse will carry you
when times hard

relation laid out on cooling board
not a soul to throw her arms a
till judgment day


ii. perched high on a milk-
white horse
changed your name
changed your name

            bitter cup

fled fulton
fled memphis
railroad for a pillow
matchbox-suitcase in your hand

leaving behind
wings of mourning for my

long before my story had a name
she imagined it

on that muddy day
when you laid down sword and shield
she looked at me
eyes hammer-hard
said, wish i had died in egypt's land
now i got nobody

shadows cut me
swam deep blood in my head


i saw your body
wooden casket for a coat

cancer had left only
memory on your bones

then the red dirt
of a sippi graveyard where
hand and rope lowered
grief-soaked flesh

couldn’t hear
nobody pray
but myself


    hide a
three score miles and ten
you come ripping

two-veined memory
mapping the hollow dried trunk of your neck

there in your reeded basket
you float in shine
calloused hands gloved in
cotton which scrubbed spotted dens of affliction
absorbed the boiling reaches of vengeful floods

out of this world
i steal to the riverside
swing with your shroud in my hand

October 10, 1999 - May 21, 2004