Martin Luther King



© 2013 by Alice Walker

For Chelsea Manning

Later we would miss you

so much.

But on that day

we had you with us

& we were so

with you.

Your happiness,

of a man

knowing he was

on his way

to glory

to being shot down;

a man beaming

with triumph

to see us

the advancing crowds,

caused us to cheer inwardly

in response to every


Later we would recall

for our chidren

and grandchildren

the thrill of being

in your presence

as you rose

to meet your day.

You were so happy!

Let us not forget that.

Fear, doubt, the most horrible

criticisms evil genius

could devise

had not stood


or at all

against your love.

Even the white people

that day

looked different

to us
who had never known them

in their free form.

They had a look

of release

of knowing they were bound also

by chains and shackles

& were at last

shaking themselves free.


Perched in a tree

better to see & hear

grateful for the tree’s

rustling witness

on that fateful day

& meticulously careful

not to harm

its leafy offering

of vantage point (It would later be cut down, of course).

I lived the long moment

of your address to us

to the full.

 They would edit and condense

it later

to dull our memory

and your impact

to make it, and you, more manageable

for them.

But we were not deceived.

You were brilliant

and your message never confined

 only to dreams

though you were only a few

short years away

from your death

at 39.


What did you give us

Martin, at such sacrifice

to yourself?

After 50 years

of pondering the gift

of your life

I know you gave us


of our inalienable


as beings not only

of our country (a mystery in itself)

but more importantly

of our Universe.

And beyond that

you showered us, our wounded and weakened


with your example

of fearless love.

Fearless love for those beyond

immediate family

& friends

is very rare.

But you had it.


I think the Beings

who destroyed

your body


looking at you,

that they’d been robbed,


How could you

a mere black preacher’s


possess the gold

that eluded them;

gold, for all their digging

all over the earth,

they’d never have?

Not only that:

Martin, Beloved,

you ran the race

for Love

and won it.

We know this

for sure

50 years later.

 No longer the girls & boys

of 18 & 19

arriving at the March

 on cheap buses

from all over

the place -

We know it, Martin,

by our own devotion to life,

to each other,

to forests, rivers, and trees that support us

through every devastation,

by our cheering of every

young voice

that raises the bar of love

 to your standard;

we know it by our gratitude


We know it by our faith

not in leaders

but in our belief that love

can overcome our fears.

 Finally, Martin:

after all the dry years

of bearing your memory

most often
in silence,

We know it

by our tears.