Dear Martin,

Great God, what a morning, Martin!

The sun is rolling in from faraway places. I watch it reaching out, circling these bare trees like some reverent lover. I have been standing still listening to the morning, and I hear your voice crouched near hills, rising from the mountain tops, breaking the circle of dawn.

You would have been 54 today.

As I point my face toward a new decade, Martin, I want you to know that the country still crowds the spirit. I want you to know that we still hear your footsteps setting out on a road cemented with black bones. I want you to know that the stuttering of guns could not stop your light from crashing against cathedrals chanting piety while hustling the world.

Great God, what a country, Martin!

The decade after your death docked like a spaceship on a new planet. Voyagers all we were. We were the aliens walking up the ’70s, a holocaust people on the move looking out from dark eyes. A thirsty generation, circling the peaks of our country for more than a Pepsi taste. We were youngbloods, spinning hip syllables while saluting a country neutral with pain.

And our children saw the mirage of plenty spilling from capitalistic sands.

And they ran toward the desert.

And the gods of sand made them immune to words that strengthen the breast.

And they became scavengers walking on the earth.

And you can see them playing. Hide-and-go-seek robbers. Native sons. Running on their knees. Reinventing slavery on asphalt. Peeling their umbilical cords for a gold chain.

And you can see them on Times Square, N.Y.C., Martin, selling their 11-, 12-year-old, 13-, 14-year-old bodies to suburban forefathers.

And you can see them on Market Street in Philadelphia bobbing up bellywise, young fishes for old sharks.

And no cocks are crowing on those mean streets.

Great God, what morning, it’ll be someday, Martin!

That decade fell like a stone on our eyes. Our movements. Rhythms. Loves. Books. Delivered us from the night, drove out the fears keeping some of us hoarse. New births knocking at the womb kept us walking.

We crossed the cities while a backlash of judges tried to turn us into moles with blackrobed words of reverse racism. But we knew. And our knowing was like a sister’s embrace. We crossed the land where famine was fed in public. Where black stomachs exploded on the world’s dais while men embalmed their eyes and tongues in gold. But we knew. And our knowing squatted from memory.

Sitting on our past, we watch the new decade dawning. These are strange days, Martin, when the color of freedom becomes disco fever; when soap operas populate our Zulu braids; as the world turns to the conservative right and general hospitals are closing in Black neighborhoods and the  young and the restless are drugged by early morning refer butts. And houses tremble.

These are dangerous days, Martin, when cowboy-riding presidents corral Blacks (and others) in a common crown of thorns; when nuclear-toting generals recite an alphabet of blood; when multinational corporations  assassinate ancient cultures while inaugurating new civilizations. Come out come out, wherever you are. Black country. Waiting to be born…

But, Martin, on this day, your 54th birthday–with all the reversals–we have learned that black is the beginning of everything.
it was black in the universe before the sun;
it was black in the mind before we opened our eyes;
it was black In the womb of our mother;
black is the beginning.
and if we are the beginning we will be forever.

Martin. I have learned too that fear is not a black man or woman. Fear cannot disturb the length of those who struggle against material gains for self-aggrandizement. Fear cannot disturb the good of people who have moved to a meeting place where the pulse pounds out freedom and justice for the universe.

Now is the changing of the tides, Martin. You forecast it where leaves dance on the wings of man. Martin. Listen. On this your 54th birthday, listen and you will hear the earth delivering up curfews to the missionaries and the assassins. Listen. And you will hear the tribal songs:

Ayeee Ayooooo Ayeee
Ayeee Ayooooo Ayeee

Malcolm…                                                          Ke wa rona*
Robeson…                                                          Ke wa rona
Lumumba…                                                       Ke wa rona
Fannie Lou…                                                     Ke wa rona
Garvey…                                                             Ke wa rona
Johnbrown…                                                    Ke wa rona
Tubman…                                                           Ke wa rona
Mandela…                                                          Ke wa rona
(free Mandela,
free Mandela)
Assata…                                                              Ke wa rona

As we go with you to the sun,
as we walk in the dawn, turn our eyes
Eastward and let the prophecy come true
and let the prophecy come true.
Great God, Martin, what a morning, it will be!

*he is ours

Poem excerpted from Homegirls and Handgrenades

Sonia Sanchez website

Song by Sweet Honey in the Rock

Sweet Honey in the Rock website

the winged thang built her dream palace
amid the fine green eyes of a sheltering bough
she did not know it was urban turf
disguised as serenely delusional rural
nor did she know the neighborhood was rife
with slant-mawed felines and those long-taloned
swoopers of prey, she was ignorant of the acidity & oil
that slowly polluted the earth, and was never
to detect the serpent coiled one strong limb below

following her nature she flitted and dove
for whatever blades twigs and mud
could be found under the humming blue
and created a hatchery for her spawn
not knowing all were doomed


Excerpted from Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry


Why (2/30)

April 3, 2013

He is not the one
and yet I love him
His virginity was mine
and so is his oldest child.

He is America
and I vacillate
between love
and a frustration
that wants to lodge
in hate but can’t
because I grew
up in him.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Poetically speaking, growing up is mediocrity
– Ned Rorem

Neither rosy nor prim
not cousin to the cowslip
nor the extravagant fuchsia-
I doubt anyone has ever
picked one for show,
though the woods must be fringed
with their lemony effusions.

Sun blathers its baronial
endorsement, but they refuse
to join the ranks. Summer
brings them in armfuls,
yet, when the day is large,
you won’t see them fluttering
the length of the road.

They’ll wait until the world’s
tucked in and the sky’s
one ceaseless shimmer-then
lift their saturated eyelids
and blaze, blaze
all night long
for  no one.


Excerpted from Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry