The Day They Killed Martin

The day they killed Martin,
my brother was getting ready to be born.
Mom, an elementary teacher, gravid
with days spent
in Baltimore schools,
fought for children,
against Vietnam,
was probably a radical.

Dad, a mechanical engineer, an Army engineer,
studied war,
grew up in the segregated South,
as a poor white boy.
Dad knew poverty, and trauma,
and release;
did his best work
to overcome his biases
in life.
Knew he was lucky.

The day they buried Martin,
Mom cradled my brother
standing on the balcony of the hospital,
and watched;
Dad drove through city streets,
strategic, tactical,
worried; still safer, as
Baltimore burned.

I am hoping to keep up the practice of regular writing. For this poem, I am working off of a napowrimo prompt from years past: take the first line of another poem, write a new poem using it. I chose “Devouring the Light, 1968” by Cheryl Boyce-Taylor.

Devouring the Light, 1968
By Cheryl Boyce-Taylor

After Martin Luther King Jr.

The day they killed Martin
we could not return to New York City
our visiting senior class stuck in Huntsville
streets blazed with suffering in that small
Alabama town
in the dull shroud of morning
the whole world went crazy
devouring whatever light
that lit our half-cracked windows.


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