Tuesday, May 4, 2010

May Day

(c) 2006 K. Smokey Cormier

May Day

In memory of Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer, and William Schroeder at Kent State May 4, 1970.

In memory of Phillip Lafayette Gibbs and James Earl Green at Jackson State College May 15, 1970.

May 1970
New Haven, Connecticut
I had gone to high school here
knew all the little side streets

but this time I sneaked into town
stayed overnight
in one of the Yale libraries

My father had forbidden me
to come home from nursing school
to attend the Free Bobby Seale and Erika Huggins rally

he never knew
he never knew how close he came to
getting a phone call

my father was afraid
and angry that
I had provoked his fear

we were new citizens
sworn in
three years before
at the New Haven court house
and now, Bobby and Erika in that same court house

the New Haven Green was multi-colored with
thousands of people
two lesbians selling the RAT newspaper
out of New York City
the shadows of blades
passing over their faces
as we talk about Lesbian Liberation meetings
a helicopter, one of many in the observing sky,
waiting for action reaction

Jean Genet snuck into town too
ducking immigration officials
he gave his May Day speech
in support of the Black Panthers
and near the end
homosexual rights
I came alive
I stood, cheered, raised my fist
remembering Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the Olympics
hope of a new and open life
not many people were cheering
those were the days
when Nixon and Kissinger were called
faggots by all kinds of activists
undisguised disgust on their faces

in the evening
trouble started
agent provocateurs doing their undercover work
the city surrounded by National Guard
their trucks and tanks
their tear gas
like those days and nights in 1967

it was night
I was curious
perhaps, foolishly curious
what's going on out there?
waves of tear gas coming towards us
the group started running
wet bandanas up to our mouths
I was in the lead
I was a local
I knew the streets

we turned a corner and
in an instant
my new life
in front of a firing squad

turned that corner and
up ahead
National Guardsmen
a line of them facing us in formation
their leader shouting commands
their lifted rifles aiming at us
my breathing becomes a prayer
I was in front
… the new citizen

slowly, we backed down
went back to where we came from

two days later
four young people shot
and killed
at Kent State
nine wounded

and just after midnight on May 15
75 city and Mississippi State Police
armed with carbines
submachine guns
service revolvers
personal weapons
fired 460 rounds
on young people at Jackson State College
two students killed
twelve injured

new citizen,
your real life civic lessons
come with blood

-- K. Smokey Cormier

Note: Tommie Smith and John Carlos were U.S. Olympic runners who gave the Black Power salute at the Olympic games in Mexico 1968. When the U.S. flag began rising up the flagpole and the anthem played, the two bowed their heads and raised their black-gloved fists in a Black Power salute. Within hours, the two African-American men were expelled from the Olympic Village and were stripped of their medals.

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