The Death of Tulsa

The death of Tulsa came like this,

As barbers swept and shaved in bliss,

and blithely gossiped of men they’d 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 in the swirl of time,

not seeing near an evil wind.

The world for them not longer new,

They understood where they could go,

Through unseen walls they could not pass,

And so they knew well not to try.

Safety on this side was plain,

By sticking to the color line,

but danger only came that day because a rumor flew on high on wings of stupid infamy,

That justice once more would ignore.

A lie. A tale. None could know,

Perhaps, a dream someone once heard.

But lies brought fire and crowds before,

And so they walked the color-line,

Like dancers dancing careful steps,

In Oklahoman pirouettes,

On top of boards in tight-roped streets,

They prayed the lie a quicker death,

Before it took a spotless life,

Before it broke a guiltless neck.

But sudden from the clouds it came,

Fire dropped on merchants’ carts,

And sidewalks flamed and asphalt spit,

All undeclared and merciless,

And then the mobs outside the Line,

with twisted mouths came to Wall Street,

Determined now to kill them all.

And with them came a different hate,

brought more to life by fire and smoke,

In nameless waves without a word,

unchecked by evil Jim Crow laws,

They stood and dumbly watched amused,

As overthrow took up its reins,

As though humanity was near an end.

So Tulsa burned both night and day.

But do not ask what was the cause,

or whether murderous vengeance led,

None was revealed to tell the dead,

just why their graves soon closed them in,

but that the more might kill the few.

And so would Tulsa die that way,

one hundred years ago today.

-Albert Turner Goins