For the Almighty “King” Carter Anthem
Robert “King” Carter won’t go away. He’s been dead for almost 300 years yet I go to the computer and lo, behold
there is his home plantation where you can see the imprint of his great house on the banks of the Rappahannock
where it kisses the Chesapeake Bay, prime real estate from which you can watch boats exit from Carter’s Creek.
When I visited I was able to stand in the glade right next to the foundation where the archaeologists found old wine
bottles abandoned after the fire that destroyed the place just a few years after it was built. Robert the “King” went
back to living in the wooden structure built in the 1650’s by his father the original immigrant after he cleared his
land of the indigenes. It may have stood for over three centuries because there are photographs of it that date to the
late 19th or early 20th century. Yet it’s gone but “King” Carter is now on the internets in the form of thirty years of
diaries and letters all very business-like. But then he was the ultimate business man of his time. He bought and sold
every imaginable thing . Not a man to take fools lightly. Not a man to short change. Not someone to hold his tongue.
Not a man to mess with. So where is he on that peninsular coast? Somewhere up Carter’s Creek that he once rowed
to Christ Church that his father built in wood and that he rebuilt in brick with his own money so it’s still there and
wasn’t turned into something else when they closed down the King’s Churches after the revolution? So maybe that’s
what became of his flinty soul? It found its way up the creek to the church. But, no, they had to replace the slates be-
cause of the new powerful hurricanes getting under them and the bricks have been repointed more than once now so
there’s many spaces develop between them, too, and you, you keep getting bigger and bigger in spite of how every
one keeps saying over and over how things are getting better when you were just a kid when your time went through
crisis, a reactionary rebellion and glorious revolution that could only imagine another monarchy and then it was all
putting pieces in place for a whole new system from then on. While now we bump against you everywhere and well
we’re so corn-fused poor heads sinking in a sea of corn syrup and blasted by bombs of industrial animal fat (fed on
corn, flatulent with corn) so corn-fused it seems we will cling to you, we will keep you forever even though your
whole world is gone, so deservedly long gone even as you are still here with us and I actually begin to feel sorry for
you as it keeps coming out horrible, and more horrible horror of all amputated toes of escaped slaves squirming on
the ground, bodies whose toes cannot reach the ground, head twisted at this impossible angle. They always have to
do it just because, just because they can, just because nobody can do anything about it … just the way they define
the crime so it’s always our fault never theirs, just like I guess you had to grow all that tobacco, and pick all that
tobacco, and put it all up to dry in those great tobacco sheds, and roll it up in hogsheads, and pack them in ships sent
around the world or at least made your slaves do it for you by any means necessary all so neat and business-like how
you made it all legal. Just like now.
James Van Looy has been a fixture in Boston’s poetry venues since the 1970s. He is a member of Cosmic Spelunker Theater and has run poetry workshops for Boston area homeless people at Pine Street Inn and St. Francis House since 1992. His work appears weekly in Oddball Magazine.