On the ground


April 4th 1968
Martin Luther King Jr. stands on the balcony
of his hotel room in Memphis his hands resting
on the thin black guard rail, deep in thought
about how the world is changing, about how
he’s flipping the b in black
to form the p in power,
how those words
black and power
are becoming synonymous
one letter, one march at a time.
I read that the bullet bounced
off his neck tie.
Coretta Scott King got the call when she returned
home from shopping with her eldest daughter.
The phone hit linoleum and soon she followed
bringing her head to her knees her tears leaving
dark coffee colored stains on her pantyhose.
Coretta Scott King lost her King April 4th,
the humid Memphis air turning the g into nothing
but the last bit of sweat on Martin’s brow
the n and the i trailing behind the bullet
as it burrowed its way through his jaw.
The k landed like thunder as he hit the ground
Coretta Scott was on the ground Scott was on the ground
April 4th 2015
Scott was on the ground you,
Walter Scott, were on the ground.
You were on your way to a barbecue,
headed in the right direction.
They stopped you for a broken tail light
but you feared the uncovering of the past,
of your warranted arrest and beneath that
a hazy black and white collection of 1960’s police brutality.
You tried to escape the history creeping up on you
five times you were shot
onetwo like a Birmingham bomb
threefour like a high powered fire hose
and you hit the ground
Scott was on the ground
your life soaking into the dirt behind a Pawn Shop.
the W in Walter flipped upside down for the M in murder,
murder which starts with M
that cop his name started with M too
there are two consecutive m’s in the word
immortalized, you are immortalized,
dipped in honey gold you are a symbol,
even face down on the ground you stand
for everything Dr. King stood for
You were on the ground
Scott was on the ground
the ground decorated with flowers and crosses
like the one I wore around my neck the next morning
sitting prim the Easter service,
my legs crossed real pretty.
I wore orange like a flame.
Alleluia! He has risen! You have risen too, Mr. Scott,
you have risen you stand tall beside the Father next to
everyone else who stands for what He stands for
love thy neighbor as thyself
you stand tall next to those who felt the same shots you did
one shot for Emmett Till
who flirted with a white girl
two shots for Henry Dee and Charles Moore
whose bodies floated down the river to the tune of We Shall Overcome
three for James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner
who died free men kissing Klan captivity
four for Addie Mae Collins,
Denise McNair, Carole Robertson
and Cynthia Wesley who simply sat in church,
Birmingham sun shining through stain glass,
crosses ‘round their necks, my neck
like ones on the ground where you were shot
April 4th 2015
fifth shot for Lincoln
fifth shot for JFK
fifth shot for Medgar Evers
fifth shot for Dr. King
They all hit the ground so many
have hit the ground
When will they ascend to a place
where there names are printed in gold,
their stories memorialized in marble
a history only our grandmother’s had seen.
But you are tangible you are here.
you are five minutes outside my classroom window,
your legacy stuck between teeth.
knotted in our throats, you are here,
this history is no longer hearsay,
you were on the ground
I saw you, I saw you on the ground.
Scott was on the ground.

— Reese Fischer. The Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion, Charleston, S.C.