Gail Newby

June 21, 1964
Neshoba County, Mississippi

The moon was beautiful that night
drifting over cotton and cane,
working its way around
the estuaries of the heart.

Straight from Oxford,
Goodman learned to drop and roll,
protect vitals, cover his face,
two days in Mississippi,
scant preparation for the devil’s deeds.

Chaney pulling himself up
through the thick gum mass of defeat,
eye to eye with men from the North,
walking out the front door,
rather than the back.

And Schwerner?
Peacemaker, visionary,
husband to Rita, believer
in the brotherhood of men.

Summer’s brilliant night
the exiled Choctaw watched;
burning church, flaming car,
earth turned quickly over cold young flesh.


Across the back field they move as warriors,
stopping now and then to view a fence,
a hedge, growing
wild and profuse.

River oaks infest the pond,
A phantom silence grips
the land.

Once they owned this farm,
these giants.

Rising early to backbreak.
Eating beans at noonday,
bitterness at night.

A man might be no one,
but he could own land.
He could till the graceless
clay—for a pittance.

When he died–
his son’s to pass down.

Shreveport Bus Stop

In our dollar store shoes.
Headed to Byzantium we are not.

Rather to Little Rock,
Memphis, Lafayette.

kinfolk dying.

Could be another chance
to get it right.


Gayle Ledbetter Newby
has been published in decomP, the Hiram Poetry Review, Gravel, Literary Orphans, After the Pause, and others.  Her chapbook Once Appointed is due out in the Spring of 2017. Gayle is a retired social worker living in Mississippi.