The HyperTexts

C. L. (Cynthia) Toups

C. L. (Cynthia) Toups is a self-employed editor and technical writer. She has a B.A. in History from Loyola University New Orleans and is a faithful pilgrim to the University of Iowa’s Summer Writing Festival. Her love of history and music fuels her poetic themes along with her south Louisiana roots.


My gumbo sings jazz,
throws blues to the roux;
like morsels of bread
my ears soak up
its nutty brown juice
seasoned with Billie’s
soulful wound, a dash
of Jelly Roll’s Red Hot
Peppers and the sizzle
of Dizzy’s groove
while I sit at the kitchen
table and let the spice
syncopate on my tongue.

Ghost Rider

for Pat

The cane is tall;
a wind burst smoothes back
its green mane, lifts
the fine brown hair
of my uncle’s beard
as he cranks
the bike’s throttle,
feels the vibration
of rubber rolling over road.
He is a boy again, learning
to find his balance
as he cruises northbound
away from demons
of a hardcore past,
toward absolution—
or some similar mirage,
the afternoon sliding
down his left shoulder
like a noose uncoiled
from the neck
of a pardoned man.

But such freedom
is short-lived and untested
reflexes fail to negotiate
the approaching curve.
Wheels spit out rocks
like broken teeth;
black birds scatter;
chrome flashes an SOS
as it slices through
the stout stalks.
My uncle stares up
from the dirt, blankly
into mild September sun.
It is too late to care
about burned retinas,
bones shattered beyond
mending. The silent
implosion of memory
holds his pale hand
as the sirens call.
His steel hog lies
away from him, indifferent.

Freedom Summer 1964:
watching PBS on a Monday night

The South’s history flashes black and white
as Mississippi plays ungracious host,
extends no iced tea welcomes
to second wave abolitionists who ride down
to Dixie and flaunt freedom’s power—
fortunate sons and daughters who carry ideals
and $500 bail in their wallets.

The tense silence is what they can’t adjust to,
driving long stretches of pine woods
and red clay banks to register voters;
no place is safe for an integrated car
of students who seek help that won’t be given.
Is there enough gas? Is there a spare tire? Is the map accurate?
Fear is not a concept.
It is the prod of a small town sheriff’s swagger
stick, the tailing headlights of a pickup,
stones launched through stained glass
into a Baptist church.

Three boys go missing in the Philadelphia night:
two shot, one beaten
buried under an earthen dam. The nation cries
for its white northern dead
while black mothers mop porches in the rain,
skin chickens for stew, iron laundry
and wait for the sun to come out.

The HyperTexts