When My Alabama

by William Fargason

William Fargason

starts to show when I think almost
say what I was taught growing up
growing up white in Alabama means

you grow up believing you are better
a gravel driveway led to my house
surrounded no protected by the woods

we had a cast-iron gate an entrance
laid with stone our name engraved
as if my father meant to show our Alabama

our money like a flag there are so many
words I said to fit in in my Alabama
those words a noose waiting to be tied

when my Alabama is an instrument of death
to anyone not white when I’m taught how
to become if I become my father

what my father is his hands tying the knot
the hangman’s knot tightening the rope
my whiteness was is an instrument

of death when my Alabama is my Alabama
I leave the state wanting to erase
each magnolia flower burning atop the water

like a paper lantern that never rose to the sky
the pond in front of my parent’s house
down a foot in the heat of the summer

when each pine gave me shade but I knew
the cost of each branch each pine growing
taller each year with me until one year

I did not recognize the woods that once
held tree forts made from lumber my father
threw out those places I made to make myself

feel safe I had the privilege of privacy
but when my Alabama is no longer
my Alabama when I want to leave

what I’ve already left I can’t escape my soil
my dirt but I can do better I must
my Alabama can’t be entirely forsaken

not yet my terrible beautiful love my Alabama
I can’t sing my mouth a cannon my mouth
a cannon stuffed full of daisies still a cannon

still capable of violence despite the beauty
I can hear the music my Alabama it plays to me
but there is no place on this earth I can

run from my own prejudice I am rebuilding
the engine of my head but no longer
from the same parts to keep the Pelham

out of my brain and my brain out of
my mouth when my Alabama is an instrument
I can’t forget how to play I know I can

only hear the music if I listen when
I listen I must listen to overlay the song
I was taught with the song I must pass on

each note plucked on barbed wire is full of rust
the banjo must be restrung and new
notes written behind no gates no violence

my ear against the dirt I must listen
no matter how loud the song gets I must
listen when my Alabama calls me home

Last updated July 26, 2022