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Poem: '5 Years Later: for Us (For Martin)'

A poem in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from Fr Joseph Brown, SJ, a Black Jesuit priest and professor at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.

(Brown Turtle Press/The Dialog)

ain’t a soul amongst us
who don’t know for sure
LORD, LORD.    that we ain’t
in heaven yet
and our hell is standing still

did you hear him shout
don’t you get weary
don’t you get weary

like as not we all old
folks    bent and twisted
from the common misery
shading our eyes with
crooked fingers   palm-
high to the sun
out down the road  all day
who are we looking for

did you hear him shout
soon I will be done with
the troubles of the world,
with the troubles of the world

did you hear him children
did you

so much time lost
since I heard him shout
since I heard him sing
since I heard him pray
since he died at supper
and they took him away from us

some nights,  dark and quiet,  I get to nodding
my head  thinking and listening once more to
his big, spirit-filled voice urging us on
urging us on to victory
                                           then my hand starts
tapping on my knee and my eyes jerk open
straining to see him up there on his mountain
pointing out the dream   pointing out
                                                             so much
time lost     since I heard him shout

sometimes the tears still come
sometimes I catch myself looking
out the window for a sign in the sky
or something clear and certain

and what I see is that wagon
that wagon pulled by them
mules   and all of us  all of
us  LORD.  pushed down into grief
where there are no words   stumbling
           hoping just to make it

So much time lost
my faith is slow rumbling
like that wagon  and I’m
tired, LORD, LORD.  I’m
           of trying to hear him
trying to forget him   I’m tired
of so much time lost    of quick
pains in my hands and knees
tired of the shooting flashes
in my head
                    LORD, LORD. we standing
here   it seems   where he left us
looking out at jordan
for the signal to begin   waiting
for what
               I heard  him say    keep
a-moving on  I know I heard
him say it

is he crying like we are now
over so much time lost

our tears seem to make the
jordan swell its banks

weariness don’t you stop
me   I heard him say it
LORD, LORD.      I heard him
           so much time lost
we still got today
                               LORD.  DO
RIGHT, JESUS.   let us take
the plunge
                   we ain’t so
broken yet that we can’t
move a mighty distance more

shout it  children   shout it
for him
make jordan shrink  and tremble
and move a mighty distance

like we heard him say

we still got today
shout it  children
shout it

-- Luke

Copyright © Joseph A. Brown, SJ. 2009.

The Sun Whispers, Wait: New and Collected Poems

by Luke

ISBN 13: 978-0-9821660-3-1
BROWN TURTLE PRESS / P.O. Box 44 / Makanda / IL 62958

Paperback ($15.95)

Joseph A. Brown, SJ, Ph.D. is a native of East St. Louis, Illinois and a Catholic priest. He currently teaches Africana studies at SIU Carbondale. He presents frequently at the Lyke Conference and is the author of "Accidental Grace" (1986), "A Retreat with Thea Bowman and Bede Abram: Leaning on the Lord" (1997), "To Stand on the Rock: Meditations on Black Catholic Identity" (1996), "Sweet, Sweet Spirit: Prayer Services in the Black Catholic Tradition" (2006), and "The Sun Whispers, Wait: New and Collected Poems" (2009).

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