The Sleeper

Two Poems by Jesse Breite

An Arkansas native poet brings us pieces that remember an important figure in Southern Black history and that evoke the scorching heat of summer days.

The Sleeper

For Abraham Galloway, 1863

His lazy gaze was full of crescent moons.
When he walked in the Magnolia branches,
the wind blew his curly, black hair into
shadows — how he slipped, sleuthed from New Bern
to Virginia and back for one Butler,
General in the War to Free the South.
The illiterate flicker of his eyes,
his dark laughter at hypocrite white lies
were enough to read men, to lead them —
five thousand fugitives for Lincoln’s word
that black soldier would mean human, member.
Obscure-blooded Carolinian, man of
more than ordinary ability
they said, and he sphinxed into senator.  

The Hydrant

The Hydrant

97 first day of summer—
oak leaves look shot
so I turn on the sprinkler.
The green plastic frame
chokes, stutters, and spits
streams of water—
a small limpid offering.
What else can I do
to ease such stifling heat?
I inherited these trees,
all these Southern ruins.
The aluminum spine
revolves and exacts
its slow humming ablution.
The mechanic vessel
whispers organic tongues.
Damp bullets drop,
hitting dirt with thuds,
digging through each particle
to nectar wild roots.
The low leaves gleam,
nodding their quenched heads .
The trees bristle tall.   

Arkansas native Jesse Breite’s recent poetry has appeared in The Chattahoochee Review, Tar River Poetry, Fourteen Hills and Rhino. His chapbook is “The Knife Collector” (FutureCycle, 2013). He is also librettist for Atlanta composer Michael Kurth’s choral scores. Jesse teaches high school in Asheville, North Carolina, where he lives with his wife and two kids. More at


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