Robin Dyke updated his MLK poem in light of recent developments. Here is its first public airing.
Dead men make such convenient heroes
— Carl Wendell Hives
Did you ever have a dream?
I’m talking about King’s Dream
of a dream, exalted, revolutionary
To white liberals it was electric.
To the deep south shocking; King
an upstart preacher, do-gooder
the back of the bus
Hounded, spat on, punched, he took
to walking, to marching, to assembly
to politics of non-violence, to Washington:
I have a dream (Yes) that one day
(Yes) this nation will rise up
and live out the true meaning
of its creed
How long? Not Long! his pacing riff —
The Civil Rights Act of 1964
a step. Selma to Montgomery
The Voting Rights Act of 1965
How long can I keep this up?
The wearing climbs back and forth
to the mountain top, like Moses
always attracting a more fearsome
thunder — then, an assassin’s bullet
April 4, 1968, Memphis, 2nd floor
balcony of a dingy motel, King
the movement, tumbled headlong
from rightful promised liberty
The reaction swift, uprising riots
swept the country, met with momentary
offering, a Fair Housing Act of 1968
diversion of the march back into
wilderness. Who to step in, take
on the philistines, pick up the pace
of King’s Poor Peoples’ Campaign?
A divide in a trail, paved over
in no-cost white statutory gesture;
Martin Luther King, a detoured day
Driven into repression, rerouted
to a policeman’s fatal knee on
the throat of George Floyd in stark
daylight on a street in downtown
Minneapolis — can you believe
Minneapolis? (Yes) — 50 plus years
of black simmering, wandering despair
explodes into demonstration, protest
rioting for breath, for an end
to institutionalized racism, police
brutality, for access to healthcare,
education, fair employment,
Will we in white ever learn? Act?
Our answer to a dream on hold no
longer tolerant to be left blow’n
in the wind (Oh-no)
King’s dream dawns restless amidst
cathartic carnage, gasping
What is your dream?
Will you give it breath?
It’s far past time
Who’s the troublemaker