Kai Coggin

⌘ UPON HEARING TWO WHITE MEN SING DIXIE AT OPEN MIC, AFTER THE CHARLESTON MASSACRE / (DON’T) LOOK AWAY, DIXIE

Yes, I know this is the south,
this is your heritage,
your southern identity,
the flag of Arkansas
looks like a disguise
dressed in rebel red,
inverted intentions reflecting
the same colors,
the same lines,
the same meanings
when they flap boldly in the wind,
a limp cloth of hate,
it’s hard to tell the difference,
there is no difference,
and I can smell a cross burning as they sing

Dixie,
that boyhood harmony
sung from the gentle poet hearts
of two kind old white men at open mic,
still echoes like an unnamed horror,
still permeates the air
with visions of slave ships and cracking whips,
still splashes droplets of scarlet
across glowing white cotton blossoms hushed in the field,
still swings like lifeless fruit,
I cannot whistle along quiet acceptance,
this sick stomach is a different kind of red flag,
and these are two kind old men
but I cannot “look away, look away” anymore,
we must look history right in eyes,
and see all of the tears black mothers cry,
and I can smell a black church burning as they sing

Dixie,
that confederate anthem,
that left, right, left little jolly hooray,
boys, this is no longer the land of cotton,
and I know memory
is a hand you are reaching for in the dark,
but the crimes of man are not forgotten,
I know you’ll “take a stand to live and die in Dixie,”
but your perspective on history is not
the only one that matters,
you see, black lives matter,
and I will not “look away, look away”
when another street is painted crimson
with the way blood spatters and pools
under a young black boy,
again, again,
no, I will not “look away, look away”
as neo-confederate flag rallies
are happening this weekend at
Walmart parking lots across the country,
no I will not “look away, look away”
because this country has done that
for much too long,
do not look away,
racism flies a new-old banner,
the KKK is recruiting young members,
and confederate flags are selling like bigoted hot-cakes,
do not look away,
do not look away,
look straight at it all, America,
do not flinch or avert your eyes.

How many more black bodies have to fall before we call it genocide?
How many more southern black churches must burn before we call it terrorism?
How many more black mothers’ tears
have to ocean beneath our feet before we take a stand?

All I hear is DIE in dixie land.
All I hear is DIE in dixie land.

“In dixie land,
where a rebel flag flies,
and black boys die
or are locked in prison,
don’t look away,
don’t look away,
don’t look away… anymore… ”

—from WINGSPAN (Golden Dragonfly Press, 2016)


0-11KAI COGGIN is a poet, author, and teaching artist living in the valley of a small mountain in Hot Springs National Park, AR. She is the author of three full-length collections, PERISCOPE HEART, WINGSPAN, and INCANDESCENT, as well as a spoken word album called SILHOUETTE. Her poetry has been nominated three times for The Pushcart Prize, as well as Bettering American Poetry 2015, and Best of the Net 2016 and 2018. Kai is a Teaching Artist with the Arkansas Arts Council and Arkansas Learning Through the Arts, and is also the host of the longest running consecutive weekly open mic series in the country, Wednesday Night Poetry.

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