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Martin Luther King Jr.

King

In these times of division, of hardened positions, of the loss of understanding, the words of Martin Luther King Jr. once again rise from decades past to find relevance, to inspire, to shine the light on the darkness that corrupts our freedom and bring hope to all those who strive for equality and freedom.

I Have A Dream

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. **We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: “For Whites Only.”** We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”1

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”2

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,    From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

 

Remembering Edgar Allan Poe on the Date of His Birth

edgar_allan_poe_edgar_allan_poe_478043_800_533

Annabel Lee 

It was many and many a year ago,
   In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
   By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
   Than to love and be loved by me.
I was a child and she was a child,
   In this kingdom by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love—
   I and my Annabel Lee—
With a love that the wingèd seraphs of Heaven
   Coveted her and me.
And this was the reason that, long ago,
   In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
   My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsmen came
   And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
   In this kingdom by the sea.
The angels, not half so happy in Heaven,
   Went envying her and me—
Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know,
   In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
   Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.
But our love it was stronger by far than the love
   Of those who were older than we—
   Of many far wiser than we—
And neither the angels in Heaven above
   Nor the demons down under the sea
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
   Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,
   In her sepulchre there by the sea—
   In her tomb by the sounding sea.

 

A Dream Within a Dream 

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow —
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.
I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand —
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep — while I weep!
O God! Can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

 

The Raven 

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
`’Tis some visitor,’ I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door –
Only this, and nothing more.’

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; – vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow – sorrow for the lost Lenore –
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore –
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me – filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
`’Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door –
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; –
This it is, and nothing more,’

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
`Sir,’ said I, `or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you’ – here I opened wide the door; –
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, `Lenore!’
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, `Lenore!’
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
`Surely,’ said I, `surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore –
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; –
‘Tis the wind and nothing more!’

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door –
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door –
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
`Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,’ I said, `art sure no craven.
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the nightly shore –
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!’
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning – little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door –
Bird or beast above the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as `Nevermore.’

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only,
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered – not a feather then he fluttered –
Till I scarcely more than muttered `Other friends have flown before –
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.’
Then the bird said, `Nevermore.’

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
`Doubtless,’ said I, `what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore –
Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
Of “Never-nevermore.”‘

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore –
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking `Nevermore.’

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
`Wretch,’ I cried, `thy God hath lent thee – by these angels he has sent thee
Respite – respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!’
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’

`Prophet!’ said I, `thing of evil! – prophet still, if bird or devil! –
Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted –
On this home by horror haunted – tell me truly, I implore –
Is there – is there balm in Gilead? – tell me – tell me, I implore!’
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’

`Prophet!’ said I, `thing of evil! – prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us – by that God we both adore –
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore –
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels name Lenore?’
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’

`Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!’ I shrieked upstarting –
`Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! – quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!’
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted – nevermore!

Alone 

From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were—I have not seen
As others saw—I could not bring
My passions from a common spring—
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow—I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone—
And all I lov’d—I lov’d alone—
Then—in my childhood—in the dawn
Of a most stormy life—was drawn
From ev’ry depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still—
From the torrent, or the fountain—
From the red cliff of the mountain—
From the sun that ’round me roll’d
In its autumn tint of gold—
From the lightning in the sky
As it pass’d me flying by—
From the thunder, and the storm—
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view—
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Submissions are Open

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Submissions are open at North of Oxford for poetry, book reviews and essays. For consideration of publication please visit our guidelines here:  https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/about/

Diane Sahms and g emil reutter

Two Poems by Mike Cohen

sunrise
.
A Final Aubade
.
There is no adequate narrative for this
or any morning
when an early glint of sunlight
slants between leaves
as clouds mount breathlessly
beneath the great breadth we call blue.
Now that morning has come, the poet assumes
that morning requires an aubade,
missing what sunrise reveals
as he tries to catch it in his flimsy net of lexicon.
Let it come without comment.
Morning is a greater thing
than all the words dedicated to it.
There is no adequate narrative for this
or any morning.  A morning is
simply to be witnessed,
greeted with due silence….
Be quiet and watch it progress
acknowledging there is
no adequate narrative for this.
Yet we cannot help
but help ourselves to these grand pronouncements –
these pretentious aubades –
a profusion of insufficiency
like treatments for what cannot be cured.
It’s far too much and not enough.
There is no adequate narrative
for this or any morning.
Au revoir to you, Aubade…   – not another word.
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IMG_0060 (3)
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Bovine Mantra
.
“Moo,” I say to the cow.
She is surprised I can speak Cowish.
She’d assumed I was just another of those
who talk so much, with so little to say.
She’d looked at my boots on the ends
of my two legs, my silly colored clothing
and the hat that conceals my pathetic lack of horns,
and judged me to be capable only
of sub-bovine speech – some low human babble,
profuse and pointless and prattling on
so it could drive a cow over the moon.
.
This is what cows have come to expect of people.
I want to show her that we humans are not all alike.
And as, face to face, we stand in silence,
a trace of respect seeps into her big brown eyes.
She sees that I too recognize how inept words are
at expressing thought.
There is nothing more for me to say.
I have said my “Moo,”
and allow the resonant syllable
to fade into the beyond.
“Moo…,” the cow’s mantra,
is the consummation of language…
The rest is only cud,
a regurgitation to chew on and on and on.
.
Hour after hour the cow bears with me,
her jaws at work, her eyes on watch
until, finally satisfied that my understanding is sufficient,
she turns away and lows at the moon.
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mike-cohen (1)
Mike Cohen hosts Poetry Aloud and Alive at Philadelphia’s Big Blue Marble Book Store. His articles on sculpture regularly appear in the Schuylkill Valley Journal in which he is a contributing editor. Mike’s wry writing has appeared in the Mad Poets Review, Fox Chase Review, and other journals. His poetic presentations feature humor and drama against a philosophical backdrop. Mike likes to bring poetry and audiences to life in cafes, libraries, book stores and venues including Princeton’s Café Improv, the Pen and Pen Club, the Hedgerow Theatre, Fergie’s Pub, Harlem’s Apollo Theater, and neither least nor last, Philadelphia’s Laurel Hill Cemetery.  Look for him at http://mikecohensays.com/  on youtube at mike cohen   and in his book, BETWEEN THE I’S
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War of Elements by Akshaya Pawaskar

-fire-tornado
.
War of Elements
.
Who is fighting in this war?
It’s not a war between
countries or continents.
It’s not a war between
armies and insurgents.
It’s between elements.
It’s between humors.
It’s between the air and water
with its stratagems of winds
with its velocities
and pressures,
with its whirls
and whorls in which
we are mere civilians
flying round and
round on a carousel
of the drunk thunderstorms.
It’s a war between
land and the seas
dams and rivers,
nation of trees against
Guerilla of fire,
with the forests breathing out poison
as they burn with centuries of
rage and felling
to clear a land for the new ending
which is as old as the first man
himself digging his grave.
It’s a war between
a glacier and it’s strong mind
to stay solid and its
giving in to melt
to meld into the ocean
usurping the shores,
infiltrating the hinterlands.
It’s between the deserts
and the rain.
Between the seething belly
and the silent mouth
of a mountain.
It is a breakdown in the
face of heat of
boiling earth
of thinning skin of Ozone
of hardening hide of
Carbon dioxide.
Tears of fossil fuels
Tears of earth.
The long and the short of it is,
we are not the collateral damage
that we are not
the helpless slaves,
that we are not
the mute victims.
It’s a war between humankind
and platoons of nature.
It’s a war between
the creator and the creature.
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Akshaya
Akshaya Pawaskar is a doctor practicing in India and poetry is her passion. Her poems have been published in Tipton Poetry journal, the punch magazine, Efiction India, Ink drift, The blue nib, North of oxford, Indian rumination, Rock and sling and Awake in the world anthology by Riverfeet press.
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This Land is Full of Noises by Robert Nisbet

preseli hills
.
This Land is Full of Noises
.
Ours being a small and rural region,
much of our noise will be ripples and shifts,
quirks, half-mutes and ghostly sounds.
.
Yes, traffic certainly, a few loud racers,
the odd blasting exhaust, but get a mile away
from the small towns and it’s more a grumble.
.
The jets to America are too high to be heard.
There’s the now-and-again light aircraft drone
and the gliders, lower, hinting at a wind’s rush.
.
The sheep’s bleat can sometimes reach crescendo
but is often more a token of a stolid self.
The cow’s low is placid, stays short of the mournful.
.
The coastal winds can rise to a shriek, a pounding,
which can quickly drift on down to stillness
and soon to the sinking hiss of sea on sand.
.
Two sets of footsteps, trudging a Preseli peak,
just a slight crunching, faintest puffs of breath,
then the one flurry of the spoken …
.
Just .. well..  just want to say .. sorry ..
.
Few other sounds, just a slower breathing,
one long sigh, words of a kind ..  ah .. well .. yes ..
and above, just the piping of the buzzard.
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a photo robert nisbet col
Robert Nisbet is a poet from rural Wales, about as far West of London as you can go. His work has been published widely in Britain and the USA, including regular appearances in San Pedro River Review and Panoply.  
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Perspective by Robbi Nester

sycamore seed
.
Perspective
.
Sometimes in winter, I sit on the red bench
under the sycamore, remembering spring,
the faint green florescence of the earliest leaves,
almost a rumor, then the brash unfolding,
the tree sifting sunlight through its branches,
hoarding its riches in the roots. Though it
cannot be discerned, all trees, crowned
with moonlight, grow toward the brightest stars.
In autumn, the seeds come coptering to the ground
in their hundreds, where they send out cautious roots.
In this cold season, the bench too remembers
that before the shaved planks, sweet smell
of sawdust, it once was a tree, holding sunlight
deep underground, awaiting its next incarnation.
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Robbi_Nester1_sqr
Robbi Nester is an elected member of the Academy of American Poets. She is the author of four books of poetry–a chapbook, Balance (White Violet, 2012) and three collections: A Likely Story (Moon Tide, 2014), Other-Wise (Kelsay, 2017), and Narrow Bridge (Main Street Rag, 2019). She has edited two anthologies of poetry: The Liberal Media Made Me Do It! (Nine Toes, 2014) and an ekphrastic e-book published as a special issue of Poemeleon Poetry Journal)–Over the Moon: Birds, Beasts, and Trees–celebrating the photography of Beth Moon. Her poetry, reviews, articles, and essays have appeared widely in journals and anthologies, most recently in Is it Hot in Here, or is it Just me?, an anthology, Pirene’s Fountain’s Culinary Poems, Lady Liberty, Tiferet, and Rhino.
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