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Selma at the Crossroads


Last year, I volunteered on a series of events to help the Town of Selma, North Carolina commemorate its 150th year. I am honored to have a poem I wrote, “Selma at the Crossroads,” included in the town’s time capsule. The capsule will be sealed for the next 100 years with other items, like copies of Johnston Now magazine, The Selma News, essays written by middle and elementary school children, and hundreds of photos taken by local photographers.  For those who didn’t see my earlier “street poetry” post, here is the poem I read at Vick Park on Selma’s Founders Day, May 1, 2017 (look for the video on the S’Uptown Selma Facebook page):

Selma at the Crossroads

Weekday morning, Selma stirs

With railcars rumbling from the feed mill.

Gates descend; Amtrak slows into Union Station.

Commuters wait as each train

Rolls out past farmers turning the gray soil.


We are Selma at the crossroads

Measuring the past in wars;

From land parcels sold at Civil War’s end

To the blast of munitions at Catch Me Eye

That smashed 900 window panes three miles away.


Every fall we march a pageant of what we hold dear

Down Raiford Street, waving at pretty girls

In their sparkling crowns

Praying our children grow up and stay here

To raise families, own homes, run businesses.


We are Selma at the crossroads, between those

Hungry for knowledge and those for food;

Between the hard choice to pay bills or buy medicine.

It takes courage to smash apathy like a glass jar

Of “Selmalaise” from the shelf of the market store.


To do more than just pass each other

On Pollock, Anderson or Webb.

To mentor young leaders. Revive our faith,

To reach down to the tangled roots

And aerate the soil with reconciliation.


To pull weeds of despair and doubt.

Prune dead branches of pessimism

And let new growth have room to flourish.

Don’t just hum that lingering Sunday hymn

Join the choir. Take part in outreach.


We are Selma at the crossroads,

Between what was and what we will become,

Between labors ended and labors begun.

Between buildings vacant and those awakening

To fresh paint, new lumber, nail gun to shingle.


Stand at the cornerstone laid 150 years ago

See the Selma that rises beyond

Linear tracks and street grids

With a vibrancy that moves in panorama

And soars spread-winged like an eagle above.


See Selma as if you had to leave her tomorrow

And carry her in your heart.

What would you take?

Would you come back?

We are Selma at the crossroads.


Cindy Brookshire

Town of Selma Sesquicentennial

Founders Day, May 1, 2017