The rains came and turned the skies pearl gray, 
and the grass crunched like shreds of green coconut 
and thunder crunched like candy in yellow lavender and pink, 
and he braced his boot against the bathtub side, 
and he steadied, 
and chips of lead paint crunched under his boot, 
and he steadied, 
and the backfire slammed the shotgun in his cheek 
and crunched the bone 
and a man who spoke the way the thunder crunches 
fell down by the riverside
and blood crunched out and ran until it stopped, 
and the man who fired the shot  
crunched out a cigarette and ran until they stopped him, 
and they drove the man to jail crunched down 
and everything turned black or white 
except the pearl gray skies when the rains came. 


Memphis, TN, April, 1968,
Sunday School, Lutheran Redeemer Church: 

I’m making a pen and pencil holder,  for Jesus,
with Crayons and Popsicle sticks and an old can, 
and upstairs there’s a meetin’ going on, 
a new proposal’s on the table 
and when they heard it they all said ha-rumph 
and one of them said, 
I don’t know—Bill (or Bob) what do you think, 
and Bob (or Bill) didn’t know either 
because the proposal was so new it was like a bluff called, 
and all the white elders and white deacons 
didn’t know what to think 
about the first black family joining Lutheran Redeemer Church 
and downstairs in Sunday School 
I finished coloring my Popsicle sticks 
and glued them on the can. 


The white man standing in the bathtub 
killed the black man by the river 
because he didn’t like the color of his skin, 
but I was four, 
colors came in boxes with Crayon sharpeners on the back,
and people who mean well will say 
everything happens according to God's plan,
but God never stopped the rain that fell
and turned the sky pearl-gray
and God never stopped the man who fell
by the riverside
that day.

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