POETRY: The Tennessee Three speak in We
The Tennessee Three: From left, Tennessee state Rep. Justin Pearson, state Rep. Justin Jones, and state Rep. Gloria Johnson hold their hands up as they exit the House Chamber doors at the State Capitol Building in Nashville. | AP

“Alabama got me so upset,
Tennessee made me lose my rest…”
—Nina Simone, “Mississippi Goddamn”

Cherokees “on the road again.” Violently herded West.
Ethnically-cleansed on crimson Trail of Tears. Forcibly
moved off Tennessee homeland to
Oklahoma—Where land acknowledgment ain’t enough…

Lorraine Motel balcony; Audubon Ballroom; Mississippi
driveway; Chicago bedroom; UCLA lunchroom polling
places—Our leaders were voted out of office with lead
Ballots: swapping steel Lumumba for malleable Mobutu!
We were left standing on Duopoly corners harmonizing
$campaign/$election songs: “Yes, we can!” and “I feel
your Pain.” Left praying to Pentagon parties of Long COVID
capitalism for depleted uranium, white phosphorus prosperity

Lightfoot-Drone Rangers remained…Bassackwards Strong-
arm Williams Thom-ass Clarence Tribesmen trained to lead
us in the treacherous 2/4 Dance—
Donkey dung-elephant excrement dance—Every 2-4 years

The Tennessee Three speak in We—
from moribund bodies high on white powder in
Corporate crack pipes—
Apartheid state bodies of banana Republican rule

The Tennessee Three speak in We—
in NRA faces of gerrymanders coming
out of caves and fronting for Fat-cats—
Civil War hawks—quacking like lame ducks

The Tennessee Three speak in We—
to bought and bossed good ole boys—Volunteer
State puppets—Paymasters’ hands up nazi asses,
Moving 2nd Amendment/Maximum profit mouths

The Tennessee Three speak in We—
to dog-whistling faces of foghorn framers—
Ventriloquists called confederates—Or,
their more modern names: Fascists!

The Tennessee Three speak in We—
to whipping post politicians, rebel-yelling in
cat o’ nine tails tongue—“Tantrum” tommyrot—
branding The Peoples’ Needs: “Wanting attention!”

The Tennessee Three speak in We—
facing starred-barred,
water-hosed, dog-bitten Dixie—Hurricanes of
hardship—Awash with Stax waves of solidarity

The Tennessee Three speak in We—
Standing and delivering! Amplifying voices of ones once
Celebrated “Essential” in nightly pot and pan banging and
clanging concerts

The Tennessee Three speak in We—
Standing and delivering! Amplifying voices of shoe leather,
street heat, pavement politicians, rising in rippling waves of
Maladjusted millions… flicker of what democracy looks like??

Poem © 2023. Raymond Nat Turner, The Town Crier. All Rights Reserved; republished here with permission.

We hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, please support great working-class and pro-people journalism by donating to People’s World.

We are not neutral. Our mission is to be a voice for truth, democracy, the environment, and socialism. We believe in people before profits. So, we take sides. Yours!

We are part of the pro-democracy media contesting the vast right-wing media propaganda ecosystem brainwashing tens of millions and putting democracy at risk.

Our journalism is free of corporate influence and paywalls because we are totally reader supported. At People’s World, we believe news and information should be free and accessible to all.

But we need your help. It takes money—a lot of it—to produce and cover unique stories you see in our pages. Only you, our readers and supporters, make this possible. If you enjoy reading People’s World and the stories we bring you, support our work by donating or becoming a monthly sustainer today.


Raymond Nat Turner
Raymond Nat Turner

Raymond Nat Turner is Poet-in-Residence at Black Agenda Report and former Co-Chair of the New York Chapter of the National Writers Union. He was privileged to read at the Harriet Tubman Centennial Symposium and has appeared at numerous festivals and venues including the Monterey Jazz Festival and Panafest in Ghana, West Africa.