Thursday, April 11, 2013

Memphis, Anyway

“I’m not concerned about that now”
said the mountain that spoke with his face,
down from the edge of an unsheltered sky,
and King went to Memphis anyway.
Excerpt from Memphis Anyway by Dan Collins

When he was born in 1929, he was named Michael like his father
But concern for the great religious activist compelled his dad
To change both father and son names to Martin,
Martin Luther. Sometimes I wonder if I would accomplish
More if I changed my name, too. Maybe I could be
Eudora Welty or Sally Struthers, but somehow
I don’t think that would make a difference. What compels
A person to rise above their earthly bondage, to lash
Their focus onto ethereal goals, onto Life’s prow
“I’m not concerned about that now”
King made that speech in 1963, the year I was born
And yet in my mind, I can hear his voice pealing out the words
Oh, the wonders of YouTube and a good memory
I still have one, you know. I’ve not lost my mind’s
Facility. Mount Rushmore. I’ve been there twice,
Have you? Once when I was two years old, that place
Was captured on film and I can watch my small, blond
Self holding a snake in Reptile Gardens; it must have
Been along the route. Back then, life was all grace
said the mountain that spoke with his face
Martin was assassinated in 1968, when he was 39 years old
I remember being five then. I owned a dog named Trixie
I had a birthday party with my friends Cheryl and Carol Wold
And Dan Matthews and Jeanne. But I don’t remember any-
Thing about Martin. I wasn’t too young to recall that time in
My life, my grandparents’ farm, my old Aunt Prisca, so why
can’t I remember Martin’s death? Did anyone die when I
was five? I was still living in grace. God still hid in the church
rafters and sang the incantation during High Mass, way up high
down from the edge of an unsheltered sky

The first murder I genuinely remember happened on West 72nd street.
John Lennon was old then, I was seventeen, he was forty. He was old, right?
Did you know, at the moment he was pronounced dead at Roosevelt Hospital
The song, All My Loving, by the Beatles began playing over the sound system
When I die, I wonder what song will be playing, what song do I want?
I like music from Godspell, the musical. Somehow I’d arrange for Day
By Day to be playing if only in my mind. “To see thee more clearly,
Love thee more dearly, Follow thee more nearly, day by day…”
King knew what his future foretold, but there was a voice he had to obey
and King went to Memphis anyway