Three Poems by Julia Nunnally Duncan
In her parents' house,
near the railroad tracks,
Mildred lay in state
for mourners to come and view her—
her blonde hair spread about her shoulders,
her blue eyes closed forever.
Some remembered the pretty sixteen-year-old
as a clerk in the local Belks store,
but more whispered that day
about the way she couldn't have the married man
so she shot herself instead,
thinking she'd be better off dead
than bereaved of his love.
The cotton mill families had heard the tale—
as far back as any could recall—
of the lynching at the oak tree
behind the Methodist church.
None knew what the man had done
to be punished this way,
and now a tire swing hung on a stout limb
so children could play there of a day.
But come night they stayed away
for fear they might see the ball of fire
that some claimed would appear
in the darkness at the tree.