These are not new lines to consider,

to measure, to find the will to cross

No. These are ancient fissures

snaking through yet

unredeemed landscapes

contained in the small minds

of self proclaimed ‘great’ men

and societies of greater delusion

Now we will move these mountains!

March across the forbidden morass

of bogey men with our hearts

as stubborn and solid and true

as a brick thrown through the window

of America’s Museum of Gross Inequities.

When the glass shatters we’ll crawl through

together on hands and knees

over our past to amend

what has been forsaken

Waking up won’t be easy…with keen eyes,

on more than mere tangential bloodlines

We will bear witness, humbly seeking

every denied connection to our ancestors

joining new generations dancing

in the overhead glare of fluorescent

shadows, disapproving stares

celebrating life in suburban

supermarkets to city streets

ebullient innocence,

commanding smartphones

demanding life be a witness

to their freedom and foibles

sporting beautiful bantu knots

and name brand kicks

agile self-confidence,

fluid in a №24 jersey

whooshing by with a forward pass

a loaf of Wonderbread sails by

not quite tethered to the past, still

unsullied by the future

Isn’t this carefree invincibility

the epitome of childhood?

a rite of passage imperiled

only by pimples and hormones

a parent’s sacrifice is more

than a child can yet grasp

for this equal right

to pass unharassed

is not common enough for some

For these material gestures

alone will not erase or quell

the arc of oppression

curving, winding its way

through humanity’s veins and out again

like a sleeper cell of terrorists

one day these innocent children will

face the hateful tyrant

brush by it on the subway

catch the wrong city bus

turn the corner too soon or too late

nudge the wrong wingtips

maybe even push without apology

Then BAM! the blood memory

of what went underground will awaken

ethereal flashbacks of indescribable loss

suffering and struggle will make them weep

for injustices they have not earned

nor brought upon themselves

an indecent evil as yet hardly answered for

and they will not understand it

until they crash headlong i

nto the line between

the shameful past

and the present dissolved

by the shock of a taser

the hollow point of a bullet

the suffocating boot

of masqueraders who patrol

these invisible boundaries

contrived by indecent

dishonorable men

sworn to protect and serve

their noble mission hijacked by hate

trading equanimity and justice

for subjugation and murder.

This is the line some believe civilized society

cannot cross ________________until it does

over and over again without impunity

Who dares to lay this shameful tragedy upon

a child’s shoulders like a woolen cloak musty

with time and tears — who wishes

to mar youth with the truth of a shameful past?

Soon enough, maybe tomorrow

they will wonder for a shadow of an instant

why a mournful sigh heaves in their chest

while looking into their phone’s camera eye

for another sweet selfie

a soul memory will escape into the ether

while they remain oblivious

to young Martin’s ghostly impression

praying over their shoulders

He too looks into the lens

of their tomorrow

worried his death did nothing

to ease their burden

the animated shutter

clicks and whirs

the carefree poses relax,

wariness resumes

ancient wisdom slides into place

the age old key is in the lock

beware something’s coming

One day, they will crash into it- full stop

At first they will not recognize the wall

the fence, the ditch, the hanging tree

because all things shift their shape

over time — hate won’t look the same,

but it will be equally tempered

by time and hubris

because the shapeshifters who once moved

like viscous clouds beneath bed sheets

down southern dirt roads

are still hiding in the bloodlines

of their grandchildren’s children

behind money and corporate corner offices

with dizzying views down to the avenues

where people float by as specks of dust

they lunch with politicians

pressing flesh and salving egos

buying seats for unsympathetic judges

on historically hardened benches

filling prisons with our fathers,

our brothers and even our mothers

These lines we can no longer ignore

they must be obliterated

lest they erase

the soul of humanity entirely.

©sk 2021

I dedicate this poem in hope and celebration to the memory of our esteemed civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr.

image credit: Sam Poullain

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