The Full Measure
by Kevin C. Gardner

a dark green canoe
launches from the pine
tree lined northwest
bank of the Oak Orchard River.
As the tiny craft streams

under the open bridge, the Travelers
scull into another world. Slowly
paddling, the sky turns bleak, and threads
of lightning caress the clouds.

The tallest oak is struck.

As the mighty tree tumbles
to the ground flames
fill the sky and press
to the water's edge.

The air lingers thick
as the grey black smoke
blends with the starless
night sky and fiery

embers burn
into the steaming bark.
The red sparks of anguish
shimmer on the blood
of martyred slaves, shackled
to the branches

as if splayed
on the wooden crosses
of Golgotha. The bank overflows
with crosshatched backs
and screams as leather strips
burn the nine tails

into flesh, and passions ring
out to scorch the memories
of the noose into the branches.
The fire burns. The black man
yearns. The coiled cord earns.
Struggling to return to the bridge,

the Travelers fumble through the smoke
and in the darkness, the wounded
green canoe pulses from its mud
brown prison. Paddle to water,

the Travelers seek to atone.
With a loud crack, the answer given
as hickory splinters and the blade
flows towards an empty copper sea.

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