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  • For the Confederate Dead
  • Written by Kevin Young
  • Format: Trade Paperback | ISBN: 9780375711411
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For the Confederate Dead

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poetry (13)
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The award-winning “lively and excellent collection” (Los Angeles Times) about the South and its legacy, about African-American griefs and passages, from the author of Jelly Roll and Black Maria, a poet who has “set himself apart from his peers with his supple, variable, blues-inflected lines” (Publishers Weekly).


TABERNACLE Since they shared the samemonogram, JimCrow & Jesusoften found themselvesgetting the other’s dress shirtsback from the wash.This was after Jimhad made it big& could afford suchsmall luxuries. He& Jesus mostly metSundays in churchwhere Jesus came for the singingbut stayed for the sermon& to see whether the preacherever got it right.Jim, you guessed it,came for the collection plate& after stayedfor the hotplates of the LadiesAuxiliary (no apostrophe).To onefolks prayed,the other they obeyed.FOR THE CONFEDERATE DEADI go with the team also. –WhitmanThese are the last daysmy television says. Tornadoes, morerain, overcast, a chanceof sun but I do nottrust weathermen,never have. In my fridge onlythe milk makes sense–expires. No one, much lessmy parents, can tell me whymy middle name is Lowell,and from my tableacross from the ConfederateMonument to the dead (that palefinger bone) a plaquedeclares war–not Civil,or Betweenthe States, but for SouthernIndependence. In this café, below sea- and eye-level a mural runsthe wall, flaking, a plantationscene most do not see–it’s too mucharound the knees, heighthof a child. In its fields Negroes bendto pick the endless white.In livery a few drive carriageslike slaves, whipping the horses, facesblank and peeling. The old hotellobby this once was no longerwelcomes guests–maroon ledger,bellboys gone butfor this. Like an inheritancethe owner found itstripping hundred years(at least) of paintand plaster. More leaves each day.In my movie there are nohorses, no heroes,only draftees fleeinginto the pines, some fewwho survive, gravelywounded, lyingburrowed beneath the dead–silent until the enemybayonets what is believedto be the lastof the breathing. It is getting later.We preparefor wars no longerthere. The weatherinevitable, unusual–more this time of yearthan anyone ever seed. The earthshudders, the air–if I did not knowbetter, I would thinkwe were living all alonga fault. How lateit has gotten . . .Forget the weathermanwhose maps move, blink,but stay crossedwith lines none has seen. Raceinstead against the almostrain, digging beside the monument(that giant anchor)till we strikewater, sweatfighting the sleepwalking air.POSTSCRIPTSThe world is a widow.Storms surround us, areasof low& high pressuremoving through–should be gone tomorrow.Rain from the skylike planes.We pull ourselves upfrom bedor death, wanderstreets like ghosts,lost guests.Everyone’s a townwith the shops shuttingdown, no hoursposted. Even the radiostays closed–only newsor fools stillbelieving love.Traffic that won’t move.In the crossing, a white hearsehanging a left.I want to be that womanjust ahead, tapping her footout a car window, bare,in time to a musicI can’t quite hear.September 2001

From the Hardcover edition.
Kevin Young

About Kevin Young

Kevin Young - For the Confederate Dead

Photo © Melanie Dunea - CPi

Kevin Young is the author of six previous collections of poetry and editor of five others. Jelly Roll was a finalist for the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and won the Paterson Poetry Prize; For the Confederate Dead won the 2007 Quill Award for poetry. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a United States Artists James Baldwin Fellowship, Young is currently the Atticus Haygood Professor of Creative Writing and English and curator of Literary Collections and the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library at Emory University in Atlanta.



“Young reminds us that freedom has not been realized for everyone, but his vigorous and appealing voice encourages the hope that we may continue to understand and appreciate one another’s perspectives and dialects.” —Phoebe Pettingell, The New Leader

“Heartfelt bluntness . . . Rich with unfettered honesty . . . A confederation of losses, continuing Young’s exploration of African-American culture and history in musical form: Jazz and blues spoken here.” —Katie Peterson, Chicago Tribune

  • For the Confederate Dead by Kevin Young
  • September 09, 2008
  • Poetry
  • Knopf
  • $16.95
  • 9780375711411

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