The End of Tulsa

The end of Tulsa came like this,

As barbers clipped and shaved in peace,

and gossiped of a man once known,

Who might have been as rich as you,

And ladies in high bustled garb,

walked out to find the latest hats,

And children played without a dime in sawdust and the swirling winds.

The world for them not longer new,

They understood where they could go,

Through walls unseen they could not pass,

And so they knew to never try.

Safety on this side was known

By staying on the color line,

and danger only came that day because a rumor flew of infamy,

That justice would once more ignore,

A lie, a tale, none really knew.

Perhaps, a dream someone had heard.

But lies before brought fire and crowds,

And though they walked the color-line,

Like dancers setting careful steps,

In Oklahoma pirouettes,

On top of boards in tight-roped streets,

They prayed the lie might kill itself,

Before it broke a guiltless neck.

But suddenly from in the clouds came fire dropped on merchants’ carts,

And sidewalks flamed and asphalt burnt,

All undeclared.

And then the mobs outside the Line,

with twisted mouths came to the streets,

Determined now to sweep them out.

And with them came a different hate,

brought now to life by fire and smoke,

In wordless waves without a name,

unchecked by falser Jim Crow law,

Who stood and dumbly watched overthrown,

As if humanity began to end.

And Tulsa burned this day and night.

No cause or vengeance was ever told,

None revealed to tell the dead why their graves would come,

but only that more kill the few.

And so would Tulsa die that day.

-atg