Assassination Nation | Robert Bensen | The Piltdown Review

Assassination Nation

Assassination Nation

On the 50th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., April 4, 1968

Whoever we might have been,

whatever anger we might have shared

were lost when the mighty arm

that God and the weight room gave him

brought down, could have been,

a set of knuckles to open my skull

to the complicity of my complexion.

A half-hour later: dizziness, nausea,

a swarm of psychedelic lights.

The brain trauma specialist

asked if I always sweat like this.

Yes, I said, yes, yes,

I always sweat like this.

Police stacked the table with album after album of mug shots,

thumbnails of beautiful black males, growing older, somewhere, maybe.

Maybe my main mugger-man in there, or the brothers who shot up the neighborhood

night after night I lay sweating bullets on the floor, that summer the night

one of their grandmothers took a slug through her picture window into her heart.

None of those faces belonged above the arm

I can still see silhouetted against the cool dusk of April 4, 1968,

before it descended like the wrath of Jehovah

who smote the hard, hard hearts of His children

because they were His children.

Officer, I said, I never saw the man’s face.

Cop thinks  —This guy’s a waste.

But I had seen the heraldry of race, an arm raised,

and locked in the fist, a club, a mace—

trapped in this row after row, page after page

of sullen faces. Many frames, one rage.

I wonder: could he pick out of a college yearbook,

or a line-up of my entire despisèd race,

me, whose head got in the way of his fist?

Did this startled face serve in place of him

who cocked the hammer and aimed the rifle

and pulled the trigger that fired the bullet

that flew through Memphis

that lovely April afternoon, the bullet

that has been flying for half a century,

bullet flying still—

would this one do, who did nothing to stop it,

nothing whatever to stop it,

this one who’ll never undo the nothing he did

with the nothing he wouldn’t do, if he could.  

            
2018 Fall/Winter Fiction Contest—First Prize $500

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