OM ( / )

Assassination Day

In the seventh grade in 1968,
playing football on the school playground
I heard that
Martin Luther King Jr.
had been assassinated,

Some kids cried,
other students didn’t know what to feel
I felt a little sad.

I headed up to the third floor classroom
for my fourth period class
at Washington Junior High School,
I realized I had to step it up a bit
cause I was running late...

As I turned the corner and
shot up the final set of stairs
I saw an unfamiliar black face

standing...
at the top of the stairwell
with his eyes swinging
as wildly as both his arms
screaming
and hitting people
as they walked up the steps

I was about to turn around
when I realized
that I did not have enough time to go
around the second floor detour
without being late...
again

I continued to march up those thirteen steps
I could see some students
begin to shift their whole bodies
slightly to the left
leading with their right shoulder
as if trying
to provide a target
for the attacker
to aim for
besides their face

Other students decided
to take the hit
head on...
directly in the middle of their chest,
their pummeled bodies flying
as if hit by the thick force
of water from a fire hydrant

I could hear him screaming
“they killed him,
you killed him,
they killed him”

As I took another
cautious step forward
I took a quick peek at his face,

I knew everyone in the school
and I confirmed to myself,
that he was not a student
but before my eyes left his face
I made a startling discovery
I saw a tear appear on his cheek...

he was crying...

he was crying
but kept punching
and swinging
not one of the students said anything
when they got hit,
they just released a “umph”
almost being careful
not to let out a sound
to warn other students

And the students held in
their tears too
clutched in between their
clenched prayer fists
hands into fingers

At this point
I realized
this person
who had terrorized our school
armed only with his lightning fast fists
was crying,
screaming
and hitting
the world around him
in a whirlwind of emotion
that was raining upon all the students
in that stairwell

and I was next up
for the unending
onslaught
of
violence

and as he cocked his arm
for the more than one hundredth time
I wrestled the urge
to capture my balance
as soon as I could,

an angelic voice
from the other side of the stairwell
said…”hey man…
hey man…
that’s Oscar…
he’s cool
he’s ok’...

and the man-child
quickly stepped aside
and let me pass

and as I headed
down the hallway
with a sigh of relief
draped across my face,

I realized
it shouldn't be that simple

And have wished every day since
that I had
found the courage
to speak up for what dreams
Martin Luther King Jr. stood for

even if it meant
falling down
over my words
in that stairwell...

by Oscar Mireles

Comments (12)

A great captivating poem. Thanks for sharing.
A great poem with historical narratives, gives us a feel about the emotionally charged atmosphere following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the great black leader of America.The poem is all the more valuable as it comes from the pen of the one who actually experienced and a witness to events of surcharged emotions.
An excellent write. Good details and emotions permeates the assassination of Dr. King. A part of history that will be forever etched in our heart. Stunning.
Martin Luther King Jr. lives on. Great narrative of an incident that bring tears to the readers' eyes.
Wow! A powerful poem. Had me captivated from the beginning to the end. Well done.
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