From The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.:
From the age of three I had a white playmate who was about my age. We always felt free to play our childhood games together. He did not live in our community, but was usually around every day; his father owned a store across the street from our home. At the age of six we both entered school – separate schools, of course. I remember how our friendship began to break as soon as we entered school; this was not my desire but his. The climax came when he told me one day that his father had demanded that he would play with me no more. I never will forget what a great shock this was to me. I immediately asked my parents about the motive behind such a statement.
We were at the dinner table when the situation was discussed, and here for the first time I was made aware of the existence of a race problem. I had never been conscious of it before. As my parents discussed some of the tragedies that had resulted from this problem and some of the insults they themselves had confronted on account of it, I was greatly shocked, and from that moment on I was determined to hate every white person. As I grew older and older this feeling continued to grow.
My parents would always tell me that I should not hate the white man, but that it was my duty as a Christian to love him. The question arose in my mind: How could I love a race of people who hated me and who had been responsible for breaking me up with one of my best childhood friends? This was a great question in my mind for a number of years.
I came across this beautiful creature, a Mandarin duck, in Central Park yesterday.
The accompanying poem, by F.W. Harvey, was written while the poet was a prisoner during the first World War. The inspiration for it came from a drawing of ducks on water that another prisoner had scratched out in chalk on the wall over his bed.
From troubles of the world I turn to ducks,
Beautiful comical things
Sleeping or curled
Their heads beneath white wings
By water cool,
Or finding curious things
To eat in various mucks
Beneath the pool,
Tails uppermost, or waddling
Sailor-like on the shores
Of ponds, or paddling
– Left! Right! – with fanlike feet
Which are for steady oars
When they (white galleys) float
Each bird a boat
Rippling at will the sweet
Wide waterway …
When night is fallen you creep
Upstairs, but drakes and dillies
Nest with pale water-stars.
Moonbeams and shadow bars,
Fearful too much to sleep
Since they’ve no locks
To click against the teeth
Of weasel and fox.
And warm beneath
Are eggs of cloudy green
Whence hungry rats and lean
Would stealthily suck
New life, but for the mien
The hold ferocious mien
Of the mother-duck.
Yes, ducks are valiant things
On nests of twigs and straws,
And ducks are soothy things
And lovely on the lake
When that the sunlight draws
Thereon their pictures dim
In colours cool.
And when beneath the pool
They dabble, and when they swim
And make their rippling rings,
0 ducks are beautiful things!
But ducks are comical things:-
As comical as you.
They waddle round, they do.
They eat all sorts of things,
And then they quack.
By barn and stable and stack
They wander at their will,
But if you go too near
They look at you through black
Small topaz-tinted eyes
And wish you ill.
Triangular and clear
They leave their curious track
In mud at the water’s edge,
And there amid the sedge
And slime they gobble and peer
Saying ‘Quack! quack!’
When God had finished the stars and whirl of coloured suns
He turned His mind from big things to fashion little ones;
Beautiful tiny things (like daisies) He made, and then
He made the comical ones in case the minds of men
Should stiffen and become
Dull, humourless and glum,
And so forgetful of their Maker be
As to take even themselves – quite seriously.
Caterpillars and cats are lively and excellent puns:
All God’s jokes are good – even the practical ones!
And as for the duck, 1 think God must have smiled a bit
Seeing those bright eyes blink on the day He fashioned it.
And he’s probably laughing still at the sound that came out of its bill!
Another day is cocked and ready to fly
Yesterday another somebody died
but this somebody knew me when I was young
She saw you come into this world
and held your father’s hand to help him cross the street
when he was a child
Those were the days before
The sky, appropriately somber, greets another desperate dawn
where soldiers fight the same old fight
and those who know better lie to our face
Soon I will put my head down again
and watch the sidewalk slip past
but I will take this slice of time
for remembering Mary
before beginning the days after
Like all new years, 2019 dawns with limitless promise and if the past is any guide 2019, like 2018, will end with most of those promises unfulfilled. It is the few that will be filled that provide hope for our dreams.
Fear of the unknown causes so many problems, but their solutions also lie in the unknown. My one resolution for 2019 is to embrace the unknown, to hold it close, and to learn as many of its secrets as I can before it is whisked into the past, into the comfortable realm of experience.
For a lot of people, this season is not the jolly one that it is supposed to be. Songs and movies that give comfort and joy to many, pull a decidedly nasty trigger for others. It is no coincidence that suicide rates rise during the holidays.
The days are as short as they get in the northern hemisphere and the darkness at the end of each one gets longer. It gets so cold at this time of year that our bones shiver and teeth chatter. Nature throws some of her worst at us and the way our society responds – with parties and gifts and time off from work – has the opposite of its intended effect on many of the ones it is trying to comfort.
This is a season of reflection. I think of family and friends who have died or drifted away. Luck and institutional advantages have offered me a life filled with joys big and small, so most of my memories are happy ones that help me get through these short, cold days but some people would just as soon forget all the ghosts of Christmas past.
Christmas is the season of love, the kind of love that exists in its purest form in every religion, moral philosophy, and agency that works to get food to the hungry and justice to the abused. And when justice is not possible, that pure love gives compassion and hope.
You don’t need to have a picture-perfect holiday, or find the greatest gift, or pretend that you’re jolly at the holiday parties. You do need to know that there are people in the world, even if they don’t know you, who are thinking about you in the midst of their holiday hoopla, and are hoping that you make it through this season stronger for your fight against the Christmas trigger.
Five years ago today I started this blog as a new artistic project after I quit my band of 30 years. In the days since I started Words & Music I wrote a novel, became a poet, and composed most of my favorite original songs.
I have posted about 650 poems, stories, songs, reviews, and drawings, and have clocked about 150,000 views. I am grateful for every eyeball and every eardrum that looked and listened to something I posted here.
Blogging is a social media like any other, feeding on views, likes, and comments. There is a place for that kind of thing in art – a focus on having people look at or listen to your work – but it’s not a place I want to be right now. So I’m going to take a break from the blog to devote more attention to projects that feed on time and solitude.
The only thing I’m going to miss might be you.
There is a thing called the “ideal reader” who is the individual a writer keeps in mind while he writes, to turn our monologue into dialogue. I have a picture in my head of mine. She is so sweet. And she might be you. I hope she is.