Good Shepard [Undergraduate ODU Poetry Prize Winner]

By David Baah
Cousin Shep pulled me out of bed,
long before sunrise,
and buckled his wrinkled overalls with haste;
we were under attack.
I was sleep-drunken,
sweating out the Mississippi heat,
my only instruction:
Take Grandma and ya’ sisters out the back door
and don’t’ stop until ya’ hit the road.
With fatigue still in my eyes,
I hopped into some pants,
tapped around in the dark for shoes,
and woke the young and old
for our escape.
I was told not to stop,
but I did,
knowing that my twelve-year-old sister, Janie,
would recognize her way
through the maze of black forest
kissing the back of our farm.
A monster of fire
devouring our cow shed,
stretched its hellish limbs
and swallowed the crackling wood
of our home
in a cocoon of flame
that bled out of the windows.
I ran, stumbling through the mud pits
where pigs scurried about in fright.
Shielded by some fencing,
I stopped to watch four shapes
wrestling in the field;
one of them was Shep.
Two men wearing white pillowcases,
loosely draped over their skulls,
dragged his bloody body across the grass
and put his back against the giant elm tree
that stood like a lighthouse in our front yard.
They tied ropes to each of his wrists
and pulled his arms in opposite directions
so he wouldn’t run off.
I heard raised voices.
A third man was now shouting,
holding a weapon above his head.
The intruder spoke reason:
Shep had a knack for letting his eyes wander
into the vicinity of thighs and ass
on the yella-haired-ladies
who bought colas at Bryant’s market,
and he’d whistle
as they pranced off
with their pointy noses held high,
in vibrant heels
that made them tall.
I was ten years old
when I saw the “police”
burn my house,
shove a shotgun
in a nigger’s mouth,
knocking out all of his teeth,
he mumbled only vowels,
and they pulled the trigger.



Poet David A. Baah (the walking jigsaw puzzle of culture) was born in Fairfax, Virginia, to a father of West African heritage and a mother from Kazakhstan. Currently a senior studying at Old Dominion, his interests are the craft of film, creative writing, social & political sciences, and philosophy.  Profound is the poet’s love for words and their power—he reads everything: from books to body language.