One Too Many Unified

A Love Supreme played on the airwaves
speaking silent screams, I heard:
truth need not be bullet-proofed,
the voice’s sermon seemed to say.

In Detroit ’65 I woke in birth to this;
before the burning summer’s swelter –
truth be told I can’t remember much
(I read the news much later).

I rode the L toward the lake
I took the bus south-central bound
I passed the white house where I saw
black jockeys striking on the lawn

A Bitches Brew drunk in the alleys,
speaking sermons soft I heard:
truth need not turn ‘gainst itself,
the voice’s singing seemed to say.

In Harlem ’65 I woke in birth to this;
before the churning cauldron’s spilling –
truth be told I can’t remember much
(I read the books much later)

I walked the railroad to the north
I sat on steps behind the fences
I passed the pickets where I saw
leaders leading where they’d fallen

Free Cellblock H spoke in the nightclubs,
humming hurtful hauntings I heard:
truth must needs be spoke and lived,
the voice’s whisper seemed to say.

In memphis ’65 I woke in birth to this;
before the hateful carbine’s humming –
truth be told I can’t remember much
(I saw the film much later).

I rode the BART to see the Raiders
I took the T past Roseland Ballroom
I passed the graveyard waiting vacant
thinking of Crispus Attucks.

(I hear him wondering why)

JAN 2004

When I was living in Memphis, some friend of mine who knew I was a poet mentioned that fact to an African-American preacher friend of hers. The upshot was that this gentleman asked me for a poem about Martin Luther King Jr. to read from his pulpit. I thought to myself … hmm … as a 29-year old white man from the country transplanted to LA and then schooled in Boston jazz college now living in Memphis, my take on this situation is not likely to be altogether in line with a Memphis congregation’s expectations. Al Green, you’ll remember, has a congregation in Memphis. Just down the street from where I was. I mentioned my hesitation to this preacher man; he said, that’s OK. You’re a poet, right? Write a poem. And so I got my first “pro bono” commission. Here’s one of the three poems I gave him. I think it was the best of the lot – but I never found out if he read it from the pulpit or not.

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