A. L. Nielsen

Waco Burning

One made a cross in the air
Opening over his head
So he should be known in the photo
Posted to the world

Seventh son of the seventh seal
Come in fire
Children burning to see

Thousands massed to watch
Washington inflamed
The chains let down again and again

In the children’s hour
Facing illumination
A nation seethed

The seized scourged
Burning in his innocence
Fuel for the mass

Four minutes deliberation
Too much for them
Tired from their hour of trial

Tried their patience
Their hour come round
They burned to be remembered
They burned white

                                    May 15, 1916

Portrait of a Young White Guy Writing “I Am Not Your Negro” on a Sign at Film Forum

On white board across

A constraint a line
To form black and white at cross

Purposes screening
Proposals time on the crossed streets

Cross walk zebras
Cross talk crowds

Cornered preachments
Writ new each day

Showing a way
A printer’s devil

Finds work
A cross to bare

Cattle Call

and a cow who did not have a name, the cow was only called the cow . . .
Jamaica Kincaid

The dogs came by name
As the cats and horses too

Sows known only among themselves
As the chickens with their pecking order

But just the one heifer had her name
Her way of survival and assurance

She though needed no
Calling lived rather in the barn

To this safe side of the cattle guard
She was mother’s care and dispensation

Still to be there at season’s end
As her father called the rest

“That’s The Way I Feel About Cha”

Bring the earthquakes bring the seas
Bring the lenses and the model trees

Bring the zombies with their fragrant bones
Bring the meters and the parking cones

Bring the readers from their coffee shops
Bring the beers and bring their hops

Bring your swamps from their coastal zones
Bring The Intruders with their loving tones

Bring Annie Mae bring all she sees
Bring Bobby Womack please please please

Bring the tolls and bring the strife
Bring the monster and his newbuilt wife

Bring the changes bring the chords
Bring the actors from their worn out boards

Bring the mountains bring the plains
Bring the future with its acid rains

Bring the poets bring their crimes
Bring their forms with their awkward rhymes

Bring East Asia and bring its teas
Bring all these when you’ve done with me

The Personal Effects of Billy Joe Rogan

A man came in the toilet with a camera
But proved to be a spirit-filled Christian
He gave me three dollars

I owe twenty-one ninety-five
To Mrs. Mantle for this week’s board

He said Jesus suffered not the little children
But I’m twenty-six

No matter he said God’s
Love knows no bounds gave me
Another five and a card with his number
Said whenever you’re in need any way
At all just call on the Lord and
Me or meet me here at three-thirty any day
Of the week I come regular evangelizing
Patted me on the head and handed me
Some paper towel

I didn’t like that part so much
But for five dollars
These felt tips are a blessing
For writing on these rolls the ball points
Always tore them but now the only problem’s
Keeping them dry and my wallet’s fine
For that folded they don’t take up so much

When I finish two rolls should be a book
I can get Mrs. Mantle to type
On regular paper but first will have
To pay her and when it’s published
I’ll buy her house for her and one
For mother too

When I told the man in the toilet
About my book he laughed but then
He patted the camera hanging in front
Of his stomach and offered to do the

Poet, editor, and scholar  A. L. Nielsen is the author most recently of Back Pages: Selected Poems, edited by Jean-Philippe Marcoux (BlazeVOX, 2021).  His works of criticism include Black Chant and The Inside Songs of Amiri Baraka.  He was the first winner of the Larry Neal Award for poetry and the recipient of an American Book Award for his edition of Lorenzo Thomas’ Don’t Deny My Name (University of Michigan Press, 2008).

Read next: Poetry by Cole Swensen

Founded in 2020, Three Fold is an independent quarterly based in Detroit that presents exploratory points of view on arts, culture, and society in addition to original works in various media, including visual art, literature, film and the performing arts. We solicit and commission contributions from artists, writers, and activists around the world. Three Fold is a publication of Trinosophes Projects, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

Three Fold recognizes, supports, and advocates for the sovereignty of Michigan's twelve federally-recognized Indian nations, for historic Indigenous communities in Michigan, for Indigenous individuals and communities who live here now, and for those who were forcibly removed from their Homelands. We operate on occupied territories called Waawiiyaataanong, named by the Anishinaabeg and including the Three Fires Confederacy of Ojibwe (Chippewa), Odawa (Ottawa), and Bodewatomi (Potawatomi) peoples. We hold to commit to Indigenous communities in Waawiiyaataanong, their elders, both past and present, and future generations.