Oh Lord, How Long?

by Delores Fisher

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The sickness has not been healed . . . .

In 1964
Mississippi, occupied by Freedom workers, SCREAMED
Justice in long overdue social de-breeding,
Ripped ooze crusted scabs
From Mississippi soil’s blood-stained clay.

Rabbi Joseph Lelyveld, refused to fight the infected
Collapsed onto a bench, a welt of blue-bruised body
Mississippi summer heat, matting his blood,
He prayed strength for all God’s children,
Especially those uninfected
Downhill over the railroad tracks
In night-rider noose bearer clay-baked backwoods
Sleepy hollow cotton fields.

In 1964
Fannie Lou Hamer, jaggedly limping to witness stand
Heavily sitting upright
Told a Johnson pre-empted story of back cell jail beating
Rebroadcast on late-night news
Global television eyes pulled away, channel surfed, cried.

In the land of lush green lawns, and lofty cushioned pews
In the land of dirt roads and fear-filled half bombed out
sanctuaries downhill over the railroad tracks
Isolated church body politic sang
Lift Him up by living as a Christian ought,
Let the world in you the savior see:
Then men will gladly follow Him Who once taught,
I’ll draw all men unto me.”

In 1964
Harlem and Rochester erupted.
The Northern lie revealed: no immunity to the
Precursor chaos, closet skeletons danced through open doors
The sickness lion-roared North, South, East West, Hell.
Friends now enemies, racial relational dessication,
Chimerical life-liberty-happiness pursuit,
Dry bone valley, hollow people, this is our country?

Then, it happened . . . .
America tore her garments
Spectral shadows, not a hoax,
A triumvirate of tears, flesh decaying,
So many bodies unearthed, then
James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner,
They were not first, nor last.
Unspeakable darkness revealed, internecine

In 2012 festering sickness slithers . . .
Spewing venom from sea to shining sea
Hate birthing legion.

We whose center must hold
When things fall apart,
We who prostrate ourselves
Humbly a charge to keep in righteousness’ service
If we listen, listen . . .

Griot Martin cries out, wails cautionary
Hold on jus’ a little while longer
Trampling drum majors jubilate

As America’s politicians bankroll speeches with children’s lives
As sickness engulfed ideologues employ tactical fiduciary
auto-da-fe to “purify America’s educational system”

As slogans bulldozer homeless bodies into chasms of poverty
As Occupy Wall Street images Mississippi Summer discontent
As immoral and unethical equivocation is media spun to
cannibalize the vulnerable

Can you hear it?
Just beyond the breeze,
Thousands join as he cries out,
“Oh Lord, How Long?”
From a throne beyond time, the trumpet sounds:
“. . .My child, not long . . .”

– Delores Fisher, San Diego State lecturer

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