Poem by Rodney Wilhite
… thick-necked, square-jawed and dark became one of the most recognized faces in America. Federal agents and police officers questioned dozens of lookalikes and received more than 10,000 tips. By June 1995, however, Federal investigators realized they were mistaken. The description matched a soldier with no connection to the bombing … who had come into the truck rental shop the day after Mr. McVeigh.
—The New York Times, December 1997
Those men sortable by offense in the registry, those motels
shared, jobs done and forgotten. Cars bought or traded for without titles.
Coffee thermoses filled at rest stops.
Slept in their back seats behind the car washes. Tents in drainage ditches,
scoped-out construction sites. Those found under the billboards.
In the chat rooms seeking discourse as guiltily as sex.
Those followed from city to city, who buy fried pies and tattoos.
Untreated impairments. Unfilled prescriptions, unwatched
televisions. Those encircled by M4 carbines
and cameras. Limping in shackles to white vans,
covering faces. Those who say to the press, I may be a drunk,
I may be a drifter, but I am not no terrorist.
Those who say to the press, My daughter, and the spotlights swim
the gravel lots of motels, My daughter will see …
The 2016 Charter Oak Award for Best Historical
We are pleased to announce this piece as the Fourth Place winner for the 2016 Charter Oak Award for Best Historical, honoring the independent press’ best writing on themes of historical people, places, events, objects, or ideas. The winners are selected by an external panel that judges all pieces blindly and selects the full list of 12 finalists from hundreds of entries. Alternating Current does not determine the final outcome for the judging; the external judges’ decisions are final.
Rodney Wilhite is a poet and educator living in Fayetteville, Arkansas. His poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from Cream City Review, Pleiades, Fourteen Hills: The SFSU Review, Puritan, and elsewhere.