Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Tuesday Poem: "Savage Spring"

comin’ down like a machine gun on the brothers.
Ain’t no “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”, baby!
Martin Luther King, Rodney King,
keep beatin’ on the black man for any old thing.
Lotta anger down here in South Central LA.
Keep worryin’, Hollywood, we’re comin’ your way.
Spike Lee comin’ atcha, Ice T comin’ atcha.
George Bush keeps talkin’ ‘bout Laura Norder.
Who she? She a waitress?
Gimme fries with that order.

news ‘copter, news ‘copter,
hangin’ there in judgement like the finger of God.
Yeah, Joshua fought the battle of Jericho.
You built the walls, baby, now we’re gonna blow.
Picture-takin’ while we fry white bacon,
hoverin’ out of reach like a kid at the zoo
showin’ white America the black bugaboo.
Film at eleven, CNN, Alabama,
but Rodney King’s assailants ain’t sittin’ in the slammer.
WelI, Miss Daisy, I don’t know what happen.
Uncle Tom Bradley, get back to your cabin!

Chutta- chutta-chutta-chutta,
eye in the sky got no tears for the sisters.
Laura Norder sleeps in the white man’s bed.
Black children die while she’s givin’ him head.
It ain’t no John Wayne, rootin’ and tootin’,
Hispanic child killed in a drive-by shootin’.
Crack money rules ‘cause there ain’t no jobs.
It’s enough to make even Laura Norder break down.
American Dream is a nightmare in this town.
Lotta anger down here, just needs a spark to ignite it.
Martin Luther King, Rodney King,
whitey look in horror at the savage spring.

POET'S NOTE: I wrote the poem above in 1992 as a response to the L.A. riots which erupted because four police officers were acquitted of the vicious and sustained beating of a black motorist, Rodney King.


As I watched the news footage play out on television, I noticed that the same racism and injustice which sparked the riots was being perpetrated in the way the riots and rioters were portrayed by the American media.

A writer can sometimes attract criticism for writing from the perspective of a culture that is not his or her own and I was leery of that fact. However, anger at the blatant injustice and treatment of black people in America drove my pen.
In a curious twist, my approach was validated not all that long after I'd written the poem. I performed the poem at a poetry reading at a pub in Perth, Western Australia, and, unbeknownst to me, two black sailors on shore leave from an American warship had entered the back of the bar. Had I known that they were there, I would have been hesitant to perform the poem. Afterwards, they both came up to me and shook my hand and thanked me for "telling it like it is".
Now, 21 years later, with Barack Obama as the President, we feel that America has made a great leap forward in race relations. But has it?


Just recently, a man who shot an innocent, unarmed teenager called Trayvon Martin because he was black was acquitted, just like the police officers in the Rodney King case.
So I offer the above poem as my humble tribute to Trayvon Martin, a young man who had everything to live for, yet died for nothing. God rest your soul, Trayvon.

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