Poem by "Arkansas" (Strider, Jim Benston)

ODE TO JIMMY LEE

I did not know you, Jimmy Lee,
  But I came to watch you lowered to the Earth in highest homage
    As though a king, or chief, or priest of Sacred Truth.

I was a one of four thousand sad, and scared, and seething Souls
Who trekked the miles from Marion in pouring rain
  that holy Alabama Sunday so long ago,
    Washing away our tears;
replacing even our fears and ANGER
With a DETERMINATION NO TIDE of reaction or TERROR could stem.

Perhaps it was not my own blood upon the jacket I wore thereafter
  But Yours, Sheyanne's, Martin's,
    That of Annie Lee, & Brother Reeb, and young Saint Jonathan of Daniel.

We mixed blood by day, and laughter by night
  and tears before the dawn.

The Shack rocked and rang with the footsteps of our dancing
  {Song medley interlude with "Shotgun," "When a Man Loves a Woman," "Change Gonna Come."}
the Shack rocked and rang with the footsteps of our dancing.   The silent streets echoed with the pounding of our Hearts.
Love came easily — as did conflict — And rode away with the next carload to Atlanta
  Perhaps never to return that terrible and wondrous winter before the Dawn

I know not how many years I grew that month before the Spring
  But, fleeting decades since scarce have left so true a mark upon my Soul.

From afar they do NOT remember Your Name — 
  Those who came to carry on the Torch you passed into their hands;
As they do remember Daisy, and Medgar, and Andy, and Mickey, and Jim.
  But We who stood by Your side
    And heard your final verdict pronounced:
      "DIED of massive internal infection."
  We, we who stood the Cause we know.
And when we met the horses on The BRIDGE,
  The gas, the clubs, the whips, the angry shouts and flaming eyes of HATRED
    YES!  We Knew!

From THAT Moment we were CERTAIN that Our Cause "should not have died in vain,"
  That we WOULD MARCH ON, to Montgomery,
    Affront the eyes of All the World
  And seal one mighty victory FOREVER
    Along the never-ending trial-trail for FREEDOM

The Struggle the Task  the Prayer   the Song of Human DIGNITY.

  AND You, dear Jimmy Lee Jackson, age 26, of Marion, Alabama,
Footnote of history,
As You rose to protect your grandfather from the vicious clubs of hatred that February night,
  and thereby gave YOUR LIFE,
YOU helped to lead us on.
  And WE We who stood by Your side
    We R E M E M E B E R

Strider

Copyright © Jim Benston, 1965, all rights reserverd.

[I wish to give the background for my poem dedicated to the Civil Rights martyrs, centered in the person of Jimmy Lee Jackson of Marion, Alabama, who was shot by Alabama State Troopers on February 18, 1965. He died a week later in Selma.

I first delivered the poem in a little church in Trickim, Lowndes County, in 1995.

I gave about a one minute introduction so that people would understand the relevance and a bit of the scene and the significance of Jimmy's murder, for it was his death which motivated us to organize the March on Montgomery. I was a participant in all those meetings, and served medical duty all night in Burwell Infirmary in Selma the night of the shooting, treating the wounded from the assault on Mt. Zion Methodist Church in Marion.

We met all day on the 19th and decided to hold a march that night in Selma. When we came down the steps of Brown Chapel, we were met by Sheriff Clark's "Water Posse" on horseback and in pickup trucks just behind Chief Wilson Bakers Selma Police.

Had we not retreated into the church that night there would have been a massacre, possibly setting off a race war in America. The situation was THAT tense.]


Copyright ©
Webspinner: webmaster@crmvet.org
(Labor donated)