Baltimore Whistlestop, January 17th 2009

Crowds stream from Light Rail & buses

            Golf cart lane down Baltimore Street.

Coldest day of year

            Strange light of mid-winter late afternoon.

 

Barricades everywhere

            Buses blocking roads

Police of every agency & uniform

            Clumps of unarmed soldiers

The big line

            The metal detectors

Secret service on roofs

            Scoping the crowd

 

Then the plaza

            Where did the homeless go?

Standing in the middle of Fayette Street

            Amidst the crowd

All races, all classes

Integration

Only seen at Artscape

Or maybe a ball game

 

Then the moment

            No one had foreseen

With a thousand cameras & phones

            Held over heads

A black man taking the legacy

            1776, Fort McHenry

On streets

            Where black folks were chattel.

 

A recreation of Lincoln’s

            Inaugural train

Except without the disguises

            And the sneaking

 

First blood of the Civil War

            Spilled blocks away

As rioters

            Attacked northern volunteers

Rioters still honored

            In our state’s anthem

“Avenge the patriotic gore

            That flecked the streets of Baltimore”

 

The next day rail bridges burned

            On our mayors command

Telegraph lines to DC

            Torn down

Then occupation

            Federal Hill cannon turned

So many things have turned

            And turned again

 

Are we truly

            A people

Of common hopes

            Of common dreams?

 

Eleven minutes from the crowds roar

            To “God bless America”

Then the magic ended

            And music resumed

 

Marching back

            Watching family portraits taken

I spoke with a fifty-something black couple

Who on a normal day I would never meet

They missed the speech

            “How long?”

“Only 10 minutes”

            “We were expecting more”

I play them the speech

            Recorded on my phone

 

You can tell the poet

            Everyone snapping pictures

And this fool

            Recording words and dreams

Everyone will say “you should have seen it”

I will say “you should have heard it”

One Response to “Baltimore Whistlestop, January 17th 2009”

  1. harriett Says:

    Baltimore Whistlestop January 17, 2009 …Beautiful poem, loved it.
    You’re very talented. It reminded me of the poem I wrote. “My Place In History” it’s about the March On Washingto in 1963 with Martin Luther King Jr. I was 16.

    God Bless You
    Ama2009

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