Poetry for MLK Day

Tomorrow, the company I work for is holding a special event to celebrate the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I was asked to write and present a poem and I wanted to share it with all of you today–the day the holiday is celebrated.

The Dream Lives On

94 years ago, a babe’s cry lit up the Atlanta sky
“I have a dream,” it said.
But the world wasn’t ready to hear.

Like the Lord he adored
This King would have to grow and perish
Before we would take heed.

But between his first breath and his last
He would build a lasting legacy.


Though he never asked for fame,
This King was crowned in Montgomery.
Did you hear is voice among the 40,000?
Demanding justice, demonstrating peace.

Marching to Washington,
Did you hear his voice raised in song?
Calling for a peaceful revolution,
For freedom and equality.

Perhaps from steps of the Lincoln Memorial his words reached you.
In a ringing timbre amid the tolling bells.
“I have a dream,” he proclaimed.
The world held its breath and finally listened.

When the echoes faded, sound erupted.
From one side, tears of joy and cries of “Hallelujah.”
On the other, words of hate that do not bear repeating.
For we hear them to this very day.

They clashed with fists and water hoses and human barricades
Trying to keep out, trying to protect
Outdated ways and modes of thinking
Seeing only black and white
Ignoring the humanity underneath.

Amid the screams and cries of pain—still he called for unity.
Equality was not a child of violence
But the progeny of peaceful civil disobedience
Birthed in love, for the greater good of all.

His words were not honey to all ears.
Rather than balm to soothe, they rankled.
Who was this man to make such demands?

Finally, a single gunshot
Said what all their other bigoted words could not:


65 years ago, darkness fell in Tennessee.
Like his lifeblood bleeding out,
It crept across our country and the world.
Silence, shock, and tears greeted it.
Just like they hoped it would.

But then—a miracle.

Instead of despair, righteous anger.
Instead of apathy, action.
Rather than ending a movement, they fueled it.

When the light went out behind his eyes
It lit up inside 7 billion souls.
Like the prophets of old,
What was once his is now ours.

His body may have died
But he lives on.
In you.
And you.
And you.
Yes, even you.
And in me.

So today, let us open not only our ears
To listen, but our hearts as well.
For they compel us to action.
To create the world of which this great man dreamed.

Today, let us all be Martin Luther King Jr. in our communities
As we echo his words:

“Let freedom ring from the streets of Ferguson.
Let freedom ring from the rebuilt ruins of Tulsa.
Let freedom ring from the cobblestones of Charlotte.
Let us join hands—Black, white, brown, and all colors in between.
Let us raise our voices until we drown out those spewing hate
And like Dr. King, we can cry:
‘Free at last! Free at last!
Of racism and bigotry and fear and hate,
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’”

Poetry for Healing

I think I forgot to mention here that I’ve started writing poetry again–first time since high school. You can see the first three poems I’ve made public:

  1. Soul of a Poet
  2. Awakening
  3. Binary/Spectrum

April is both National Poetry Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month. I didn’t realize the two coincided until today. Violence against women ALWAYS bothers me, but the recent spate of occurrences plus the Minnesota Supreme Court ruling that if a woman has been drinking, a man sexually assaulting her isn’t rape have really gotten under my skin.

It has also brought up some things from my past that I have been trying to work through with poetry. I realize that my experiences have all been “near-misses” so they aren’t as bad as so many women have gone through, but they still caused me trauma. These three poems are all very personal, but I want to share them in an effort to heal.

This first one is about our rape culture in general:

American Injustice

A gavel bangs
A man goes free
To ruin his potential is an impossibility.

The woman,
Lord, she was asking for it!
Didn’t you see her drinking?
And that skirt—
If she didn’t want it
She wouldn’t have worn it.

Brock Turner, Francios Momolu Khalil,
R. Kelly—hell, we have you on tape.
But in Minnesota, if she’s been drinking
It’s not rape.

Blame the victim for the crime
It’s a tale as old as time.
Even Adam blamed Eve.

Slap his hand—“boys will be boys” after all.
But she’s the one who has to live with what he’s done.
Nightmares, flashbacks—that’s her justice paid.
But he’s America’s beloved son
So let him serve no time.
God forbid he faces his crime.

She’ll remember for years to come
Her time of pain is never done.

And they wonder why we need an ERA.

This one is about how the world is so messed up that women have be grateful when men don’t rape/abuse/kill them.

Forgive Yourself

How fucked up is it
That I’m thankful
My boyfriend didn’t rape me
In the back seat of a car when I was 19?

That he understood “no?”
Even if he pressured me to go farther than I wanted?

Instead of asking for consent
He forced things to a point
Where I felt like I had to go with what he wanted.

Yet I’m grateful he showed me
A modicum of respect by
Not forcing himself on me.

He pressured me
Yet I feel the shame.
He made me feel I had no choice
Yet I still carry the guilt.
He violated me in body and spirit
(there are more ways to violate than with a penis)
Yet I am grateful it wasn’t worse.

What fucked up world do we live in
That I still carry the scars from that night
—23 years ago—
And he probably doesn’t even remember my name?

Another case of boy goes free
While girl takes the blame.

This poem is the true story of the worst night I have ever experienced. I know so many women have experienced so much worse, but this night still haunts me.


Drunk girl
Thinks she’s hot
Knows what to do.

Meets a man
He knows the band
Their “manager,” you see.
He’s a real somebody.

She knows the band
But not this guy.
Where’s he been?
Is this a lie?

Music blasts.
She loves this song.
She thinks she danced,
But can’t recall.

Set is over.
Last call.
Time to go.

Stumble outside
The “manager” appears.
“Want to say goodbye to the band?
They’re backstage. Take my hand.”

Darkened room
She walks in first
Lock clicks
He’s blocking the door
And she is doomed.


This is bad.
How many drinks you had?
Shit, shit, shit—sober up!
You can see what’s coming in your head.

Suddenly sober
You have to get out
If you don’t, you know how this turns out.

Use a trick.
Get to the door.
Or he will pin you to the floor.

Ancient instinct whispers.
It’s worth a shot.
Maybe you’ll make it
If you show him what you’ve got.

Lift your shirt
Expose your breasts
Make him think you want him.

Fumbling with his zipper
He moves away

Lunge for the door.
Pray your fingers
Can work the lock.

The knob turns.
Out you run,
Past your friends.

If you can get outside
It will all be alright.

There they are
Out in front
The four band members
Loading up a van.

They never were
Inside, you see.
That was just a fantasy.

A trick to get you alone,
Make you vulnerable.
After all, you were drunk,
Who would blame him for a fuck?

You would have kicked and screamed,
Lost your virginity.
But now at least
You are safe.

God was watching.
You got lucky.
You are scarred but not broken.


Assault is never a victimless crime.
It leaves its marks.
They don’t fade with time.

Twenty yeas later his name is gone,
But I can still see his face.

How many other girls?
How many other nights?
Young and dumb,
But not as blessed.

I will never know
What it was that made me
Flash my breasts
–the old “if I show you mine”—
But it was just enough
to buy some time
and prevent a rape.

Lesson learned:
Never walk into a room before a man.

Because what happens there
Will be your fault.