4/30 6:01 P.M., April 4th, 1968


they say that before the doors were opened
to the church before the home-going for brother Martin,
that there was concern
over the lump of clay left upon his face
and the mortician stated it was all he could do
since his jaw was blown off

but his words still persist

fifty years from an April afternoon and America
is still searching for its soul like old men
reliving past glories to distract from empty walls and cupboards
subsisting only on the junk food of jingoism, drinking oil like water
choking their arteries with the racism’s raw meat

but his words still persist

“tell the truth and shame the devil”
only works if the devils are willing to admit shame
and that day they decided to take brother Martin’s life to hide theirs
since he made broken pieces of the American dream
into an eternal mirror filling their palatial estates and condos

and his words still persist

fifty years later
and we remember brother Martin like all who gave their lives for us
as radical, reverent and renewal
his voice still reverberates louder than the lies
and soars higher than balconies and rooftops

and his words still persist

even as tyrants stroll in the capital
even as the cruel in suits and ties snatch lives and crumbs
they as the powers that be look on this day
and see the people swelling up to meet evil with love and anger
quoting his voice despite the death and fear dealt out

bullets in certain cases
can and have been



when poems are keepsakes


a writer can wonder
if the words they’ve given to someone they once loved
last as long as intended

do they sit on tables
out of close reach, greeted only by sunlight
and maybe, watered by the eyes

are they locked up in
shoeboxes, their vigor held in store
with the memories of so many others

do they come out to play
in the onyx hours
and add their perfume to the breezes they contain

or do they become ink
that stitches itself in the skin
permanent even into the next world

this is why writers don’t give their words lightly

dive bar dissertation.

it’s midday and i join the other flies taking a break
from hovering around life in a bar that years before
i would’ve held in disdain. but i’m here now, because
it’s the only place in the world at the moment that i
can disappear without hopping a plane, train or bus.
this is where time, if it doesn’t stand still, stands
on its head long enough for you to get your balance.
or lose it. a dive bar always needs a set of curtains,
as if you’re shutting the world’s judgement out. the
bar needs to look as if it has weathered wars, the
projections of one’s thoughts and stomach and can still
bear the cuts one makes with a Swiss army knife. this
bar that i sit at is on the way there, looking as if
it once was the centerpiece of a Polynesian themed
restaurant in the middle of Carle Place.

i nurse my Heineken and think about things. the jukebox
plays Sam and Dave, but it doesn’t do much to rouse
the few people in the joint. that’s Carrie’s job.
Carrie is one of the dancers here. this is one of those
bars where strippers go to die. once the breasts sag,
once the lines of age show through all of the foundation
around the eyes, once the cellulite gains control of
the thighs…if the woman who dances and strips doesn’t
let go, it is the beginning of the end. only joints
like this will welcome her. the low lights and Miller
High Life make her young again. she becomes a siren
who lets her body sing with a muted voice. i’ve known
many women like Carrie. that’s for another round and
another time. she moves up to the stage and removes her
bra and gyrates to the music. smiles come after the tips.

places like this make you feel melancholy. they make
you feel as if you’ve hit the bottom of the bottle.
you start thinking about the past a bit too much. you
start reliving each moment. you begin to believe you’ll
never get out. the other bar patrons all have this look,
a cross between glazed indifference and sober thought.
which you wouldn’t expect during happy hour. i think
about my life at this point. i dress those thoughts up
in rags, feeling poor beyond words. the dive bar is
limbo for me. a purgatory with cheap drinks, the closest
thing to heaven for folks on the bottom rungs. Carrie
looks towards me, and grins. her nipples glisten like
the chocolate icing on fresh cupcakes. i grin back and
raise my beer in a toast to her. it’s my third one, the
one that brings me back to the shore of hope. i look
around at the construction paper signs and the pool table
bathed in fluorescent light.

the bartender saunters over, fresh off of picking at a
roast chicken dinner. ‘want another one, hon?’

‘no hon, i’m good. take care.’ i leave her a good tip,
raise up off the stool and slowly walk towards the door.
this walk always feels as if you’re wading through a
tide of molasses. i open the door and let the sun hit me
flush in the face. but i know when i’m ready to dive
into whatever is bugging me, places like this will still
be here.