Back In Alabama

by R. T. Smith

Throwing horseshoes alone, I ponder local history:
Jackson’s ruffians at Horseshoe Bend on the Tallapoosa
softened the stout log stockade with cannon balls,
then gave the natives (renegade Creek Red Sticks)

the tomahawk back with a vengeance, with interest,
to remember the massacre at Fort Mims.  Their blood
was up.  Coffee led the charge, eclipsed by a firebrand
named Houston (whose leg carried arrow splinters

all his days).  No cavalry action, just hunters hungry
with blood lust.  No quarter!  They cut bridles for their
horses from strips of enemy skin and made a nose count
of the dead by – you guessed it – removing “brute noses,”

then collected hides and beaded garments to dispense
as gifts to the ladies of Tennessee.  You have to wonder
how many guessed a later squadron including the heroic
braggart Crockett would at Tallushatchee burn a cabin

around the last holdout warriors, women and infants
after fierce battle.  Nearly starved, with no provender
but parched corn for days, the volunteers found baskets
of potatoes amid the embers and gorged, aware

they’d roasted in the grease of the “dispatched savages,”
for it had oozed during the fire through the floor.
At dusk I loft each horseshoe with a twist and hope
to hear it clang on the red rebar, to see a firefly spark

rise up and testify to my luck, but ankle-deep
in sawdust, I can’t banish from my mind expeditions
in history, the scalps and murder on either side,
and when I strike the iron, which shivers in its pit,

trying to be a sane citizen of Sweet Home Alabama,
savoring folksy pastimes, gridiron and country
songs, it’s Horseshoe Bend I remember, Tohopeke
to the Creeks, and that bantam Jackson, who sizzles

in hell as vultures gnaw his liver if there’s justice
in the Everafter that’s color blind and not just ice.