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Lamont Palmer

(July 12th,1962 / Maryland)

April Of 68: Martin Luther King Is Dead

News preempted news, upstaging clean air,
forced and stained against each open doorway,
while our faces were awash in speeches that cured.
Then the shot! Penetrating around the world,
Everything blackened, down to the clothes.
Pride created the luminous black ties,
And black handkerchiefs, at the sad ready,
(my classmates all had them, grievous wardrobe)
accessorizing that week against the chest
of boyhood and fear: morose little soldiers.
Someone (and something) was most certainly dead,
and April would share, with death, thoughts of spring.

Night. Mother's voice, unlike I had ever heard,
Dread and urgency, her new concoction,
From window to window, changed room to changed room.
'Where is your brother? He's supposed to
be in by 10pm.' Darkness, a curfew,
(my brother, out, in teen oblivion)
jeeps, soldiers, a city unlike its lit, wide self.
Heavy blood, shed for life's own heaviness:
the father of us, alive in the caustic crowds,
drank the podium pleasantries, food of leaders,
near dead, but soon wholly dead on the whole of night,
and warm laps where bleeding heads are held.
For me, a church boy, the New Testament, my story,
it was Judgement Day sweeping other days.
Looking toward the sky; expecting wrath,
I'm unprotected by deism, the doubter's gem.

Nothing comes of guns but more guns. Smoke hurts:
smoke of insolent fire, we knew what it was,
in our dreams which lingered, long, like new jewels
from fresh caves - new and with a bemused shine.
Baltimore: never so much a fearsome scene;
to a boy, a world was growing, reaching toward
fiery doors; the year of heroes and holes.
That boy put his head in his mother's apron:
strings were like the ties that bound dead heroes.

Glimmer of damage, of the hurt, crystal-shaped,
but felt, coldly and against these faces,
settled on middleclass blocks. Pictures, dour,
of those old blocks: what has died, lives
magnanimously, in wind, in tears, and chimes,
lost chimes, lost sounds, noted by desolation.
We were not political, just a family
(safe, we thought, on placid Annellen Road)
drenched in media's blood and perceptions,
splattered and spayed, transformed by the scene:
a decade of martyrs, falling like dark rain.

Submitted: Friday, March 11, 2011
Edited: Sunday, March 02, 2014

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Comments about this poem (April Of 68: Martin Luther King Is Dead by Lamont Palmer )

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  • William F Dougherty (4/4/2012 7:17:00 PM)

    Commanding topical and public events of manic or magic moments takes confidence as well as craft.
    It stands up well and honestly. (Report) Reply

  • Shadow Girl (5/10/2011 10:48:00 AM)

    Fantastic imagery and symbolism. Great view point to view such a momentous event. Loved it. (Report) Reply

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