General Poetry posted August 2, 2017


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a child tries to make sense of the riots

Chicago, 1968

by Mark Valentine

Fifty years have finely filtered
My remembering
Of that day when James Earl Ray
Shot Martin Luther King


Of course I’d heard of Dr. King
But knew little about him
White people’s words were all I heard
I had no cause to doubt ‘em


My world was neatly circumscribed
I was just eight years old
My neighborhood was clean and good
The winds never blew cold


I didn’t know another world
Existed blocks away
Was unaware that “over there”
Not all was bright and gay


The south side of Chicago then
Was two experiences
Some had clout, some were shut out
By red lines and by fences


Oblivious to dreams deferred
I just played in the park
But life that spring was kindling
Just waiting for a spark


The bulletin came on the news
I saw my parents fear
Detroit and Watts and burned-out lots
Were making their way here


And so the world changed overnight
One moment - peace and quiet
Then sirens blared and fires flared
And everywhere a riot


I saw it through a child’s eyes
And with a child’s heart
Not comprehending what was ending
Nor what was now to start


I’d like to tell you what was true
I would, but here’s the thing -
Fifty years have finely filtered
My remembering


3 Words In A Poem writing prompt entry
Writing Prompt
Write a poem of any type. These three words must be included in the poem: fear riot heart


There were 2 waves of rioting in Chicago in 1968 - one following the assassination of Martin Luther King in April, and one later that summer when police and protesters clashed outside the Democratic National Convention. I was 8 at the time and did not understand what Viet Nam or civil rights protests were about. I only knew that things were burning and people were shooting.
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