"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."[1]

With sincere respect, Mr. President:

Mere words cannot bend it to your will.

If it is such a thing that bends at all,

It bends wherever the Hell it will.


It is the wanton Leviathan

And we, the bumbling flies: [2]

We buzz and we buzz about the meaning,

Soon-to-be smears beneath its eyes.


Perhaps it curves---

Like bent backs beneath the sun,

Like backs bent in bursting cells,

Like bending backwards to prove we're human

Like brown furrowed faces laced

With consternation's latticework.


Like blood-red numbers

When wages plunge and hunger soars.

Like waning strength, dying clarion-cries:

"Keep on!...keep on...keep on..."

Then the slip, blip and sink of pulse-rates,

The swallowed hearts and loneliness

At the flatlining of loved ones' lives.


With deepest reverence, Dr. King,

I can't see it as you said you could.

I just cannot see your moral universe.

Perhaps you couldn't see it either,

Only dare deepest doubts into dream.


I do see the curve of white sails

Swollen with slaves and Transatlantic winds

I see Texas textbooks re-naming

The Middle Passage "immigration"[3]

I see the curve of Little Boy and Fat Man

Swaying drunkenly towards children from the sky

And textbooks framing the atom bomb "humane."

I see the judge arrayed in Black and White

The wood-and-hourglass-blur of gavel

Slamming down hard on to crush

The hurting souls beneath black folks' skin.

I see concave and convex curves of

Aching stomachs in valleys beyond

the world's zenith-peaks of plenty.


I see basins dug deep in cemetary earth.

I see the indent before depressed brown skin protests

Against one needle, two needles, three.

I see bulging eyes revolt, strapped-down abdomens arched

Before flesh--guilt-painted over coat of innocence--

Grows too cold, far, far too cold,

Giving way to colorless death.


I see tears fleeing down the mounds

Of earthen cheeks, burning hot.

I see the bursting spout of that hallowed mountaintop

Where lava-vomit drools and flaming bullets rain.

I see rivers of rage melting aged grooves

Down too, too pain-sullied slopes. [4]

I see fierce women's non-violent fists

Held high so long they droop despite themselves,

Like pendulums flipped upside-down---

Back...then up...and back again.

I hear shouts lifted up to white clouds,

The time-biding strategy of "shhhhhhh" to drench

And disperse the righteous anger in the streets.


Then, the ivory gazes

Looking down from on high---

Some with smiling guileless eyes;

Sometimes like stone or with impatient sighs;

Sometimes with knowing rictus-smirks.

Eyes of fear cast down on sidewalks;

Eyes indifferent, blithely downcast at screens;

Eye clouded in contempt, sneering down at peons:

Eye-arcs always looking down.


I see ahistories, and I

See no comfort in the futile scribbles

Naming them "short" and "long"---

Frames around time only so broad as the

Conquerors' and oligarchs' short-sighted whims.

We linger somewhere on the margins.

We search for something bright

In the smears of cold, indifferent gloom.

We're still wandering and wondering,

"Where do we go from here?"


No, I can't see history,

But if I listen, I can hear herstories.

I hear the fugitive songs through long ages sung.

I hear Ms. Mahalia awakening dreams deferred [5]

Out of the deep shroud of death, doubt and hesitation.

I hear Ms. Hamer calling forth those

"Little Lights" from the most forbidding shadows out of Hell.


We're singing now like Michael with our valiant mothers,"

"We're almost there."

"We're almost there!"

"Keep on! Keep on!"

"We're almost there!" [6]

We're still keepin' on.

Still singing, striving for our lives.

Still searching, fighting for something...


Something still without history or precedent:

Something far more just than justice.


Poetry Slam: 
This poem is about: 
My family
My community
My country
Our world
Poetry Terms Demonstrated: 





[1] Barack Obama quoting Martin Luther King, who in his speech Where Do We Go From Here (1967) famously paraphrased 19th-century abolitionist-theologian Theodore Parker.

[2] "As flies to wanton boys are we to th' gods,/They kill us for their sport." [Gloucester in King Lear, Act 4, Scene 1].

[3] Mother Roni Dean-Burren made news by lauching a Youtube challenge to textbook publisher Texas McGraw-Hill for this corruption of history (October 2015).

[4]"Oh, that this too, too sullied flesh would melt, thaw and resolve itself into a dew." [Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 2].

[5] Mahalia Jackson's impromptu exclamation, "Tell them about the Dream, Martin!" helped him to improvise his most famous refrain.

[6] Michael Jackson, "We're Almost There" from album Forever Michael (1975).





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