Poems by Bruce Hartford


Hot, drippy evening,
      red & yellow bars of neon light.
A crowd of dark shadows
      defiantly stand in the Mississippi night.
Car roof buckles under the weight
      of silhouetted shadows against the neon.
Courage and song rise up from
      the surrounding sea of unseen folk
      engulfing us like a warm friendly ocean.

Helmets advance out of the dark
      fearsome, their long false faces
      hideous masks of death.
A shouted command, choking fumes,
Can't breath, can't see.

The warm ocean scatters like
      spilled quicksilver.
Blindly running, blindly escaping.
Clubs thud against fragile flesh
      as helmets leap out of the night,
out of the agonizing blinding fog
      to fall on helpless innocence.

Quite, echoing quite,
      the damp Mississippi night closes in
on homes strangely dark.
Black shadows peer from dark windows
      as the Mars-men patrol their temporarily conquered territory,
      boots echoing off stony-faced homes.

Inside, in the dark, human blast furnaces
      forge inner resolve.
Hammers of anger pounding out determination,
      tomorrow... tomorrow.. tomorrow...

Copyright © Bruce Hartford, 1966, all rights reserved.

[Written in Grenada Mississippi in August of 1966 after police and state troopers attacked and tear-gassed a voter-registration rally held in front of the Chat & Chew Cafe.]



Echoing songs on the square
White breath in cold night air
Black shadows, two by two
Marching strong, me and you.

Beneath a lonely street light
Children singing out at night.
The mobs are gone, for this time
And tension eases down the line.

Standing silent round the square
Troopers watch with hard, cold stare.
"Niggers on the march again.
Damn! Will they never end?"

Around, around, the square we stride
Cold air filled with freedom's pride.
We'll keep marching side by side
'till freedom gates are opened wide.

It's quite on the square again
As one-oh-seven comes to end.
Proud, we march down Pearl Street
Back to church where we meet.

Copyright © Bruce Hartford, 1966, all rights reserved.

[Written in late October, 1966, after one of the many mass marches in Grenada Mississippi.]

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