(Editor’s Note: The following poem is from author James Coburn’s book, Words of Rain.)

Oklahoma Lynching
by James Coburn

Mosquitoes tasted blood of white men
Standing shoulder-to-shoulder across the Canadian River bridge.
Separation of color in black and white, west of Okemah.
A postcard reveals the 1911 mob lynching;
Laura Nelson and son Lawrence, 15, hanged from bridge
Dead wooden planks, dry under footsteps.
I bet a few the 50 spectators photographed the next morning
dragged mother, infant and son from court house jail.
Distant faces exposed to curious stare.
Sunday communion trickled blood of Christ touching lips.
Mosquitoes swarmed down river. Infant missing.
Communion quenched killers’ Sunday best.
Murder played God.
White hands gripped rope tight to Laura’s neck after gang rape.
Lawrence shoved from bridge.
Slam of gravity forces pants to dangle under naked feet.
Mosquitoes swarm down river,
Skim the edge, fester torch light of malice.
Muted faces of men, women and children
Stood gripping iron laced bridge a century ago.
You lynchers, dead now with your waters of injustice.
I spit in your waters. I drink of justice for mother and son.
They said Lawrence, 15, shot Sheriff Loney in the leg.
They said a posse went with Loney to investigate a cow theft.
Lawrence saw the sheriff draw a weapon.
His father pleaded guilty to the theft; taken to prison.
Laura pled guilty to save Lawrence, a false trigger of hope.
Postcards sold like slavery. Image now free.
Mosquitoes swarm down the river,
skim the edge, fester torch light of malice.

(Update: This post was updated Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017, to modify a reference to the Canadian River.)

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