The White Tree was green, shady
oak in the schoolyard for whites
only, until a black student sat
there and three nooses were hung
from its branches the next day

three nooses      white tree

Three white students were caught
and suspended for three days, black
students sat by the tree to protest, one
black was beaten by whites, a white
man threatened others with a gun

three students      three days

Finally six black students “punched
and kicked” a white student, one
with a sneaker called a “deadly weapon”
at the trial where he was sentenced
to 22 years for attempted murder

one shoe      22 years

10,000 people, mostly black,
came to town as thousands of white
people had gone to similar towns
to see nooses hung from trees
with black bodies years before

white-leafed nightmare tree

The case was retried, but cases
were still pending when nooses began
to appear everywhere: a professor’s
door, a police station locker, a highway
department, a sanitation garage

those white doors      those white walls

But back in the little town
of Jena, the white tree
was cut down