Wednesday, September 23, 2009

requiem aeternam II (19)

requiem aeternam II
for coretta scott king
mama coretta
when u left heiberger's fields
never to pick the flat, twisted,
ribbon-like bolls of alabama cotton
again; when u trained as a teacher
in segregated ohio or studied music
in chilly boston, did u see yr self
in some distant time walking shoulder
to shoulder with an icon?
leading large protesting crowds?
being transfigured;
changing the world?

when u steadfastly practiced
to make the most out of yr voice;
to sing an even tone from the top
of yr range to the bottom
even while u cleaned the stairwells to
make rent in the house u lived in —
did u see yourself, then, as the
eternal life-giving emblem of
human rights?

when yr lips sprang apart
to shape the sounds of vowels,
to let them flow & be projected,
keeping the flow of yr breath
constant throughout, did u see
yourself breathing life into a flagging
movement, crippled by yr husband's
untimely demise?

when u vocalized italian vowels
prefixed by lip consonants, when u
ma-na-ra-la tad; when u prayed for
divine guidance to help u decide
whether to spurn the advances of
that wife-seeking dreamer — did u
know then that to marry the dreamer
was to marry the dream?

when u sang daily into yr mirror
mouthing vowels & consonants,
singing scales, noticing yr breath,
the position of yr tongue,
the feeling it created in yr breast,
did u ever think u'd survive
yr beloved dreamer?
that u'd be left to nurture &
preserve the dream?

u, too, have done well, mama,
trying & never failing in yr trying;
bearing bravely the cross of heinous
heartache & deep emotional wounds
to keep the dream & an all-too-human
dreamer alive.

millions have been touched, lifted up
& transformed; have become much more
than they were. u have carried
the message & the burden
u have spead the word
preaching, beseeching the multitudes
dining & dialoguing with the greatest
among us & in yr humility
remained no more, no less than any.

rest now, mama coretta,
rest now, mater matris
surely u have earned
yr ease.

© Joseph McNair; 2009


  1. I am so glad she did live to se her children bickering with each other. What a tragedy that would have been for her.

  2. This family tragedy is still writing itself