With the COVID-19 situation, our Open Mic Night meetings have temporarily been derailed. However, we want to keep our poetry community engaged.
We are now offering an Online Open Mic venue, using the same guidelines as our Open Mic Night gatherings. We invite all the poets in our YCP community to submit your poem.
While the Online Open Mic is open for poems on a topic of your choice, this month we have a poetry prompt for you, “The Long Haul”.
The first 30 poems received are posted on this page, one each day.
We’ve had such a wonderful response, we’ve decided to keep the Online Open Mic going. So if you missed any, you can also re-visit the poems that were submitted during the month of May and June.
We hope you enjoy our poets and their thoughts in these trying times…
For the long haul . . .
I was born near the Chattahoochee where muddy waters
swirl ‘round the roots of weeping willows and
the sweet scent of magnolia blossoms cover
the stench of cruelty grown on manicured lawns
where white folks live in comfort and the wealthy
like royalty on the backs of the Lula Maes and Ethels
the Margies and Charlies who ride two busses from south Atlanta
to work sites in north Atlanta and two busses home.
I watch the Supreme Court on TV hand down the decision
in Brown v Board of Education in 1954 and when later
I marry and become Linda Brown, I wear the name with pride.
In 1955 I attend a segregated high school the same year
members of the football team goes to court to proclaim
any one of ‘um could be the father of a certain girl’s baby,
the same year 14-year-old Emmett Till is nearly beaten to death,
then lynched, ’cause he whistled at a white lady. The good news is
that I’d learned to spell Mississippi in fifth grade. An all-white jury
finds the accused men “not guilty”.
The man who lives across our street on Haven Ridge Drive
at night wears white sheets and stands at the base
of Kennesaw Mountain under a burning cross.
One night I watch Martin Luther King and his wife, Coretta Scott,
ask that man for directions to Rabbi Rothchild’s house where King
is a guest for dinner, but pretends he’s going there to work.
In October of ’58 I go for a late-night ride with Eddie E.
in his new red Chevy convertible. We park behind The Temple
and “make out” like typical teens. The next morning The Atlanta Constitution reads,
“Jewish Temple on Peachtree Wrecked by Dynamite Blast”.
Ralph McGill, the editor says, “You do not preach and encourage
hatred for the Negro and hope to restrict it to that field . . .This
is a harvest. It is the crop of things sown.”
I witness sit-ins at Woolworth’s lunch counter and old black men
reduced to drinking sterno across from grandad’s store on Marietta Street
and I witness a black boy my age try to read a legal document
for a chance to vote, but unlike Reese Witherspoon he doesn’t know
the difference between malum prohibitum and malum in se.
Sherman’s march through Atlanta, I am taught,
is the first example of urban renewal, but we all know
the reality. I go to the March on Washington to hear King
speak in ‘63 and believe things are changing. I recall
Bloody Sunday in ‘65 at the Edmund Pettis Bridge
and all of us know about Rosa Parks, but I don’t meet her
until Jane Schwab brings her to speak in Yakima. In 2002 we
meet for lunch in Detroit. Sadly, Parks will pass in 3 years.
Chaney, Goodman, and Schwermer register blacks
in Mississippi to vote. (Told you I could spell it.)
They are killed by the Klan, but their bodies
at the base of an earthen dam are not found
for six weeks.
Four black girls, the oldest 14, attend church one Sunday morning
in Birmingham where a bomb ends their lives. Trayvon Martin
commits the crime of wearing a hoody and buying a candy bar
at a neighborhood store. He’s killed at 17. Ahmaud Arbery’s sin
is jogging in Brunswick, GA, stopping to drink some tap water.
Tamir Rice in Cleveland is killed for playing with a toy gun.
He’s 12. Freddie Gray dies in the back of a police van
from a broken neck. Michael Brown Jr. is 18 when he’s gunned
down for stealing a pack of cigarillos. George Floyd uses
what turns out to be a counterfeit $20. He receives the death penalty.
It’s 2020 and we still don’t have full school integration. We still don’t
have full voting rights for blacks. We still haven’t accepted
that Black Lives Matter. So, yes, I am in this for the long haul,
but I’m getting tired and I’m running out of time.
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