They came like militia, swift. The four came down the path headed for stables. They came just after sunset, rifles in tow, hunting rodents that fatten themselves on feed and make their beds in hay.
We sat engaged in after-dinner conversation as shots rang out. At fourteen, local boys perform a necessary service and practice marksmanship by shooting rats. The farmer is hoping for a bucket full by morning.
They came with flashlights thick as lanterns, bright as torches. Again, a crack of gunfire pierces the night, and for a moment, we are in the antebellum South. Someone’s on the run; someone’s being hunted.
An atavistic fear arises for we are all descendants of slaves. Everyone at the table feels it, though unspoken, though the farmer assures us we have nothing to fear; and again, a crack of gunfire pierces the night.
Ellen June Wright
Ellen June Wright was born in England of West Indian parents and immigrated to the United States as a child. She taught high-school language arts in New Jersey for three decades before retiring. She has consulted on guides for three PBS poetry series. Her work was selected as The Missouri Review’s Poem of the Week in June 2021. She was a finalist in the Gulf Stream 2020 summer poetry contest and is a founding member of Poets of Color virtual poetry workshop and studies writing at the Hudson Valley Writers Center.