I suppose, given my theme, you knew this was coming. On 4th April Dr Martin Luther King jr. was assassinated in Memphis Tn. I considered doing an after a. n. other poet poem i.e. O Captain, My Captain (Whitman) or Where were you? (Magee) but that seemed a) too obvious and b) too easy – not my words, just changing those of others. So here we are, a piece of prose.
Mainly Sunny, with a Chance of Death
“Mainly sunny with a possibility of light showers
Some chance of thunder. Highs of 74°, lows of 57°
a little windy in some areas. All in all, folks,
a pretty nice spring day here in Memphis.
And now back to your rockin’ sound with…”
Truth is the sun shined damned near all day long, we’d driven out to Noncannah Creek for a picnic. There’s a sweet little spot out there, green grass. a swimming hole and ain’t nobody but knows it ever gets there. Hell, that was a day I was gonna remember for a long, long time. Mary-Anne, got real sweet in the water, you know what I mean, I’d been chasing her for, oh so long till then and later, on the drive back she asked me if I wanted to go steady, Well, yes I did and I said as much. Jenny was sleeping and Keith was just talking about which drive-in we should hit to get some burgers and bearing in mind that if we got the gals home too late their dads would have our butts; but like for real ’cause they were so harsh on curfew and both had shotguns and we knew we wouldn’t be no better than ‘coons in their sights if we screwed up. I was saying he should just be cool, it wasn’t even six and we had all evening ahead of us.
Forecast had said something about showers and maybe even thunder, so when I heard that crack just as we drove past the Lorraine Motel just on the hour (I know because the news came on the radio), well hell I thought, at least we’d had a good day and if it rains now I don’t give a good god damn ‘cos this little girl is gonna be my gal. I was so happy. I couldn’t stop from grinning. Well we ate in a diner, the girls were feeling chilly from being out in the air all day and that’s when it came on the radio. And suddenly I realised that hadn’t been no thunder crack. Least not the way I’d heard it. No sir! Still, a thunder crack it was. One helluva crack and it was gonna shake a lot more than Memphis, it would resound through Dixie, it would resonate through Yankeedom (That’s what my Grandpappy called it) and it would reverberate around the whole goddamned world, right back to us and shake us to the very core. To our roots.
Now, I suppose you’d say I came from the right side of the tracks, more or less, and I never did see nothing wrong with what Dr. King was saying. Not all my family felt that way though and as for Mary-Anne, well, when I joined the funeral march her daddy forbid her to see me again. I guess, in all that was going on, it was that which showed me where to go myself. I quit fooling around with the boys, I went to school out in California and I tried, I ain’t saying I did much of nothing as we say back home, but I tried the best I could to make a difference. I still do. No sir, my wife ain’t black, my kids: ain’t none them freaks and living some alternative lifestyle and I do wear a suit to work. But every now and again, when I read an article or I watch a news story well, I just plain as day hear a crack in my ear. Just like thunder. On the one hand I feel angry ‘cos things ain’t changing and on the other hand I feel like shouting and raising Cane, like raising banners and proclaiming. Damnit man! I STILL have a dream! Ain’t you ever gonna fucking listen? Just shut the fuck up for once and fucking listen! We the people, (I believe it says), only I have no idea which “WE” they be referring to ’cause it sure as apples is apples ain’t you and me.
You know, it’s the damndest thing, but I can’t remember a single thing I did on April 5th 1968.