Saturday, September 12, 2009

remembering martin (8)

remembering martin

…his spirit must have nightly floated free
though still about his hands he felt his chains.
who heard great "jordan roll"? whose starward eye
saw that chariot "swing low"? & who was he
that breathed that comforting, melodic sigh,
"nobody knows de trouble i seed"?
james weldon johnson

no supernal presentation marked yr birth.
no special alignment of known planets. no
shield of david pressed upon a grand cross
no eight pointed star. no angelic hosts no
magi & none foretold yr coming. yet were u
born the first son & second child into a black
middle-class family of kings. the son of the
son of a preacher, three & twenty days past
the winter solstice, in the season of christ
& caesar, on 501 auburn avenue ne. atlanta.
no one knew then, michael, that u would
change yr name; assume a nom de guerre
for yr appointed social role: michael to
martin, the quintessential protesting cleric –
not against a corrupt universal church & the
purchased forgiveness of sin, but against
inertial forms of personal & social living
that resist acceleration & change; against
the forms of overt & institutional racism
that seek indulgences; the remission of
punishment. no one knew then, michael,
that u would be the focus,the coxswain,
the shepherd of the transforming & creative
response of spirit to a disparate &
disintegrated people; rootless, aroused &
demanding africans wandering in the
wilderness of america’s intellectual
generalizations, formulas & standardizing
regulations – suffering in the midst of
plenty. no one knew that u would utter a
new logos, a new word of power to project
on all unintegrated americans; unleash the
power of a dream.
neither did u, martin, perforce the more-
house college maxim: to uplift the human
race through responsible citizenship; was
naught but a subliminal goad when u tarried
there. nor did crozer & a divinity degree
bring sudden disclosure of the meaning of
yr destiny. no, non-disclosing spirit piqued
the course of yr life’s events. that same
spirit gave resonance to yr message;
made it the answer to the needs of the
millions unable to accept, to endure
american social living.
it focused & projected a new kind of
humanity, a new kind of personhood; it
activated new human faculties. but it
revealed itself to u, first, when the
stubborn courage of an alabama seamstress,
too tired to give up her seat for oppression –
whose wholeness unmasked in an instant of
resistance her essential identity – induced
in u a charge u were compelled to keep;
raised yr vibratory rate, made u shine
with an inner light – the light that alone
integrates the chaos of the world. the rest,
as they say, is vulgate history. that light,
though, was the substance of yr message
& yr dream. we clamored for freedom, but
u dancing, like a drum major at the head
of the parade, like a will–o’–the–wisp,
showed us that freedom isn’t free; that it
is dearly bought & paid for in the often bloody
coin of personal integrity & responsibility.
yr message & yr dream was about being
free & whole; about discovering one’s true
identity; about refusing to be turned around
or away, steadfastly adhering to life, love
& freedom as interchangeable elements of
righteousness. spirit has acted, martin, in
& through yr life. has impregnated yr dream;
bestowed its most wondrous gift to a confused
& oppressed humanity – that divine spark
which arouses, animates & sustains; the
honey'd taste of freedom!

© Joseph McNair; 2009


  1. Dr. King is one of my favorite civil rights leader,he was the voice of the people.

  2. I was so glad to come across your poem as we move into the season of celebration of King's life and legacy. I've learned some things, thank you.

  3. Let's make the dream real and keep it real!