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"When Dexter King Met James Earl Ray " by Patricia Smith (of Tarrytown, NY). Copyright 2005 Patricia Smith
Poetry Caravan Gala Event at Greenburgh Town Hall, launching anthology "en(compasse)" - 3/13/2005









Video of Patricia reading her poem
Video taken by Frank Sisco at
Greenburgh Town Hall on 3/13/2005
Copyright 2005 Frank Sisco




















Text of poem

There was a tender in them both, a place picked raw.
As Southern men do, the clasping of hands that know
weather. Eye linked to eye, unflinching, the flat-toned,
muttered how-do. How do you? And the scripted respect,
the pudge-cheeked preacher inquiring idly after the dying
man's days. Whole wars in them, but just a single rupture.
Their halos florid, overglowing, some news reporter hissing
expectantly into a dead silver mic: Say it, say it. James Earl
liver-toned, wobbling on old bone, one lazy eye perked for
it. It. The King is rolling his Rs, throating elegant, sweating
bullets into his collar. Having shaved too closely, his beard
is peppered red, whispering blood. And still the pleasantries.
Exactly how does one go from commenting on the weather
(it's hot: awfully humid: smells like rain: hope it lets up) to
asking did you frame my father's head in your gun sight, did
you empty his dinner chair, lonely my nights, pull back on
that trigger? Jesus, he looks just like his nigga daddy, James Earl
thinks, hopefully not aloud this time. Bet he can call on God
and turn his other cheek with the best of them. Go on, get it out.
I'm dying heah
. Cameras whir. The men are like fools, silent,
damned respectful, exactly a yardstick between them.
And it's the windup, the pitch: Sir I have to ask you, my sir,
my kind sir, excuse me, I hate to bother you sir, but I have to
ask for the record, Did you kill my father? And if the answer
is yes, will there be a throttling, an errant sob, a small silver
pistol slipped from an inside pocket? And if the answer
is no, will there be a throttling, an errant sob, a small silver
pistol slipped from an inside pocket? Time has a way of
growing things all huge. But, surprisingly, James Earl resists
spittle and the wide-eye. No, I didn't. No. No. That settles it
then, that settles it. And we're locked in on this limp drama
long after the credits have rolled and Hollywood Squares has
taken over, long after the network has signed off and clicked
into morning snow. Time for a Twinkie and a beer. Time to fall
asleep with a clear head. Time to celebrate the slow sweet of
Southern men. It's time to rejoice in the fact that nobody killed
nobody, and high time to forget that somebody died anyway.
















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If you are a poet (and want to become a member of VideosOfPoets.com).
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Browse several of the video performances by poets on this website and then consider joining the other poets. We can take a video of you reading your poem, along with text of the poem. There is no upfront cost to you or any other fee. The fastest way to get started is to call Frank at 914.381.3737, or email him at ideasmoney@aol.com your poem (with copyright notice), your name, address, phone numbers, how long you have been a poet, birthdate, places published, the types of writings (e.g. essays, poems, novels, etc.), and a 100-word or less explanation of how you usually get inspired and your writing process.

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