The Day King Died









It is 7:30 in the evening      a Wednesday

And the children have finished their supper     yes

It is April 4, 1968

The television makes a noise from the den

Behind the laundry room

He and I sit alone at the table

Bones from lamb chops

Splay over the plates

Empty milk-lined glasses

Stand on the landscape of the oilcloth

Like tree stumps in a meadow


I get up from the table finally

I want to wash the dishes

Put the kids to bed

He sits on at the table

Weary from riding to Chicago

On the 6:19

And out to Waukegan again

On the 4:39

And all the things that happened

In between


I carry dirty dishes

Over to the sink

And look out the kitchen window

My neighbor whose name

I can never remember

Stands above his galvanized tin garbage can

Holds a bag of garbage in his arms

Like a baby wrapped in a receiving blanket

And I let the water run

And stare at my neighbor

As tears roll down his face

I am shaking now

And lean on the white porcelain rim

Of the kitchen sink

Because a man whose name I can’t remember



Then my eldest son starts to yell

Words at first I don’t understand

Until a name becomes clear

Martin Luther King Jr.

As he runs back into the kitchen


My knuckles are white

From my grip on the white porcelain rim

Of the kitchen sink

While in my head I hear

A dream explode


Written in 1983, inspired by a Frank O'Hara poem, "The Day Lady Died"

One thought on “The Day King Died

  • January 18, 2023 at 9:31 pm

    Beautiful. Glad you are feeling better!


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