Xavier Magazine

The Black Brigade By Tyrone Williams


White shopkeepers,

farmers, traders

have assembled of their own accord,

Under one flag

With one sword

But we are not welcome

to defend our home

because our skin

is black.



Who are you? What do you want?

My husband is a free man! Leave him be!

Where are you

taking him?

My God! My God! Somebody help us!



Don’t sit.

Don’t stand.

We can only

crouch, hunker.

Halfway positions,

halfway men.

Not slaves,

not yet free.



Return these men

to the free state

Of Ohio.

Return them to

work and family,

Free to remain

at home or

to return here.




Cross this river one more time

These men say I’ll get my say-so

They say, Talk to our eyes.

Cross this river, for the last time?



We return

on this new morning,

twice as many



Ready to defend

our city and home.

Ready to safeguard

our families and

future. Ready to

believe in unity.



Now an army

with one mission,

many of us will follow,

a few command.

we work the front:

cut down trees,

dig pits, build bunkers,

man trenches,

armed only with

picks, axes, shovels.



A grey cap

with field glasses

scans the front line,

stops on me.

I stare back.

I want to shout

“Black men

built these forts!”



The morning sun

burnt off the last

of the fog.

Not a single grey

cap could be seen.

I kissed the axe

I’d held all night!

Forts and vigilant men

turn the sowers

of division away.



We left as men,

Returned as heroes

To doffed hats,

Waving hands.

Cheered by the

colorful crowd at

Fifth and Broadway,

we are citizens

knighted by a

sword not used.

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