Friday, August 16, 2013


The Day the Audience Walked Out on Me, and Why  
 (May 8th, 1970, Goucher College, Maryland)

Like this it happened:
after the antiphonal reading from the psalms
and the dance of lamentation before the altar,
and the two poems, "Life at War" and "What Were They Like,"
I began my rap,
and said:

Yes, it is well that we have gathered
in this chapel to remember
the students shot at Kent State,

but let us be sure we know
our gathering is a mockery unless
we remember also
the black students shot at Orangesburg two years ago,
and Fred Hampton murdered in his bed
by the police only months ago.

And while I spoke the people
— girls, older women, a few men —
began to rise and turn
their backs to the altar and leave.

And I went on and said,
Yes, it is well that we remember
all of these, but let us be sure
we know it is hypocrisy
to think of them unless
we make our actions their memorial,
actions of militant resistance.

By then the pews were almost empty
and I returned to my seat and a man stood up
in the back of the quiet chapel
(near the wide-open doors through which
the green of May showed, and the long shadows of late afternoon)
and said my words
desecrated a holy place.

And a few days later
when some more students (black) were shot
at Jackson, Mississippi,
no one desecrated the white folks' chapel,
because no memorial was held.


Duke University Press
Box 90660
Durham, NC 27708-0660


Anonymous said...

Hi Bob - Denise Levertov is a favorite.

Also the blog about Julius Lester - I used to listen to his wbai program in the 60s and 70s - good people both.



Bob Arnold / Longhouse said...

Hi, Edie,

No surprise — I'm with you on both.

I was in a bookstore once, rainy day, not many in there surprisingly and I heard a firm voice speak to a child to come to his father. The father cried, "Malcolm!" It turned out to be Julius Lester. The boy's full name is Malcolm Coltrane. Today I believe he is an educator in Maryland. The bookstore rubbed off.

Now, how about these loopy-flighted-buttery yellow goldfinches flying about? I hope you have some visiting next door. They've been part of our delight all day. Susan calls them "pet-shop birds".

all's well, Bob

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen the finches but the dragonflies have been better than Cirque Du Soleil in their death-defying swoops from the air to the ground. They fly right toward our faces, look us in the eye, and quickly change direction - it's a definite Leo act.

Cheers, edie

Bob Arnold / Longhouse said...

Dem Leos!

What happens after August?!

all's well, Bob