I remember my mother’s tears,
In 1963 bullets flew,
JFK became a national figure
who when his son saluted the world,
my mother held onto me,
in the den,
our family room,
I was a four year old boy
I didn’t know that the President died
and an entire nation cried..
A couple of years later,
I was beginning to recognize words,
there were certain names scrolled
on the CBS news with Walter Cronkite,
signing off with ‘and that’s the way it is’
began to be familiar,
even when he reported that Malcolm X
I didn’t know that the color of your skin
had such a bearing on our peaceful lives
We were in elementary school when the war raged,
Vietnam became LBJ’s final words,
his soft heart could not fight the battle raged,
He couldn’t seek another term,
he felt so responsible for the wreckage.
But we had hope, another Kennedy,
Robert was charismatic, and looked sad,
laying helpless on the tiles of
the California convention hall.
I began to know that an iron lunge
meant one’s life was surely losing time.
I recall riding to school with my mom,
listening to the radio talk about Bobby’s
grave injury. I knew he would be dead,
by the time we left school that day.
I was nine years old now,
and two months earlier
stood in my grandfather’s sunroom,
and listened to a radio report,
MLK Jr had just been shot in Memphis.
I didn’t know at the time that a Black man,
with ‘a dream’ would have such an impact on me.
I ran into my grandmother’s living room to my mom,
and told her what had happened,
and her disbelief began to tell me a story,
that tragedy was the way our world would change.
I remember her tears were more formidable,
than any she’d shed for JFK and RFK.
I remember that day realizing that MLK
had a different message lost in a flay of bullets.
And, now at ten years old I began to think,
that Malcolm X was killed because he scared people.
I’ve always wondered why prominent figures
could have such an impact only days before they died.
We have a history of losing our dignity,
then spending months aferward repairing
our fears, our anger, our difficult lives.
I would hope that today when we recognize
MLK and this legal holiday we gave this man,
that we privately take a moment to respect
teh beauty and passion of a non-violent world.
I hope we can try to be real human beings today,
I hope too we can delight in the artistry of MLK.
© Thom Amundsen 2015