This poem is about the grainy images I saw as a kid on TV of the March on Washington -- August 1963. Watching, I knew history was being made and, as Lincoln said at Gettysburgh, the nation had a new birth of freedom. This new birth of freedom keeps rescuing America from itself.
"Negroes" and pork pie hats
white shirts, black ties
sweat stains under their arms,
even wetter, the pressed handkerchiefs that wipe faces and necks.
Father Abraham looks down upon his children
and sees the words "I am a man" over and over again.
It is hot, and white girls with beehives and Peter Pan collars
cool their heels in the reflecting pool. Images of a monument to a slaveowner look up at them.
Somewhere a song plays
on a transistor:
"I Can't Stay Mad at You"
A dream is young at 50 -- compared to the kingdoms of Europe, that wall in China.
A dream at 50 won't die. Even now, it haunts the sleepless, promising a new birth of freedom -- to let men grow old together, hand in hand,
to let immigrants walk the hot streets of Arizona, work their lawn service jobs
and not fear being sent away.
Today, in the global freedom capital, tourists stroll clipped lawns and snap pictures of order and majesty, of white, doric columns, Greek temples.
They email the images back to starved souls in Odessa and Beijing.
That Skeeter Davis song still plays. You can hear it in the molecules of the air, the bits of history that have attached themselves to His marble feet, refusing to evaporate.
The wind carries a tiny echo about a dream and freedom
and America living up to its promise.
The hope of the world?
History is sticky, heavy ... like the sultry air of summer.
It won't go;
It makes our hearts heavy
and haunts our minds.