Each richly brown and languid-eyed patient I meet

evokes a tale, faithful or not? No matter to me.

Of reluctant heroes from a bygone era

of Jim Crow and a Civil Rights conflagration

They are children of strange fruit left dangling from limbs

straining the heart of the ironic live oak tree,

forgotten chattel, sustaining a feast for flies,

their gagged cries still haunting our restless sleep

Their limbs now curtailed by surgeon’s steel

As the sugar’s insidious scourge lays siege,

til there’s nothing but a cold memento, a stump,

reminder of a body once lithe and lean

Imagine: once his black-gloved fist thrust high

an anvil on a podium festooned with gold and bronze,

silencing Key’s Banner with a somber din;

pity, hailed for speed, not his glorious color

Entombed in a ward of malignant blight,

her crypt animated by the red devil poison

slyly coursing through sclerosing veins;

all-the-while waging a futile battle

Once this High Priestess of Soul mourned his plight.

as The King of Love was silenced in Memphis.

Take to the streets and unleash your fury;

civil disobedience vanquished: ‘Nuff Said!

The Reverend awaits His imminent embrace

as he is chained to a lifeless placenta;

arms riddled with old fistulas run dry

like obsolete gnarled tree roots

Down at the 16th Street Church you hear:

Nothing! His sermon muted this week.

“A Love That Forgives” was blown to bits,

leaving Birmingham afire with four slain girls

Nearly three score hence in a Charleston Church,

have we learned nothing? I fear so.

The blood of hate spilt across His altar

is a stark reminder of the chasm remaining

In life’s gloaming their faintly living remains,

in beds form a procession of caskets on wheels,

traverse hospital halls in an ironclad fate,

to the last sojourn, to be wrapped in pall

You diminishing scions of an effete era,

from a time of discontent and daily martyrs,

may peace finally grace you at day’s last light

as the torch is relit, the struggle bequeathed to sons and daughters

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