Martin Willitts Jr
When I was 10, my father took me along with him on a Freedom Bus to register Black people in Alabama to vote. What has changed since then? There are still Klan members, cross burnings, and racial problems. Being a Quaker means standing for what is right, and standing against what is wrong. Our bus was fire-bombed with the Klan and police working together. When we tried to escape, we were beaten. I am still missing teeth from that time period. My new poetry books include the chapbook winner of the Turtle Island Quarterly Editor’s Choice Award, “The Wire Fence Holding Back the World” (Flowstone Press), plus 11 full-length collections including “How to Be Silent” (FutureCycle Press, 2016) and “Dylan Thomas and the Writing Shed” (FutureCycle Press, 2017).
Let me tell you about the sharecropper’s home,
a shack built from found timber like a found poem.
I did not know cinder blocks made a crawl-space
for a dog to find shade. I was ten: small as grace,
tiny as gaps between the wood where the force
of wind came through, warning sounds of horses
bringing Night Riders. History would drift,
the Klan might burn the place with them in it.
But, I was the most dangerous person in the shack.
They risked their Black lives protecting me from attack,
because my father was registering people to vote.
It was 1960. All the mob needed was a rope.
Passions and crosses were burning high.
The way they beat my father, I thought he’d die.
© 2017 Martin Willitts Jr
Editor's Note: If this poem(s) moves you please consider writing to the author (email address above) to tell him or her. You might say what it is about the poem that moves you. Writing to the author is the beginning of community at Verse Virtual. It is very important. -FF