The Bathers

Cover for Southern Exposure's Southern Black Utterances Today cover featuring a woodcut print of a Black man's face gazing upward, by Atlanta artist Lucious Hightower

This article originally appeared in Southern Exposure Vol. 3 No. 1, "Southern Black Utterances Today." Find more from that issue here.

We turned to fire when the water hit

Us. Something

Berserk regained

An outmoded regard for sanity

While in the fire station

No one thought of flame

Fame or fortune did them


We did them a fortune. We did

Them a favor just being

Ourselves inside of them


Holy day children


In the nation coming your children will learn all about that


But the water creep about us

Water hit us with force.

We saw a boy transformed into a lion

His tail is vau the syllable of love

A master before fellow craft

The summit of the Royal Arch


Lotus. Mover on the face of the waters . . .


Sleepless Horus, watch me as I lie

Curtained with stars when ye arise

And part the skies. And mount the Royal



They said the ancient words in shameful English

Their hearts rose up like feathers


In the hidden place


And Horus step into the flood of noon

Shedding his light upon the worlds


It was in Birmingham. It happened.


Week after week in the papers

The proof appears in their faces


Week after week seeing the same moment grow clearer

Raising the water,


Filling the vessel. Raising the water.

Filling the the vessel


O electromagnetic Light shaduf!


Ancient hands bearing water



   The star broke

Over the tub


   All righteousness


Not deceived by sunshine nor the light

From a man's desire


Deceived by desire

So that in the moment

The people cast light from their bodies

"Light" being the white premeditation

The simplest fashion

What they want is light


Another source to equip

Their dry want


Want fire light. Space light

Discretions of neon


At least.           So to appear natural

         Where the sun is


360° of light


Consumed in the labors of comfort

That cries for the balm

Of all that is natural



Bathing in the dark

The water glowing

In the plastic curtain

Suddenly heated


As another expels past satisfactions.

Cold as she washes gas tears

From her man's eyes. We hate you.


Hot on her soft thigh

Like the dog's breath at noon by the Courthouse


We hate you for that


   But ancient hands raised

This water


As the street's preachers

Have a good understanding hear them


O israel this O israel that

Down here in this place

Crying for common privilege

In a comfortable land


Their anger is drawing the water

Their daughters is drawing the water


Their kindness is laving and

Oiling its patients.


   That day

The figures on the trucks inspired no one


Some threw the water

On their heads

They was Baptists


And that day Horus bathed him in the water



And orisha walked amid the waters with hatchets

Where Allah's useful white men

Came there bearing the water

And made our street Jordan

And we stepped into our new land


Praise God. As it been since the first time


Through the tear of a mother