Baltimore 1968 – Poem by John C. Mannone

After Dudley Randall

“Oh, Mother, I’ll be fine today.
I’m just going to see my friend, Pat.
Don’t worry, I’ll be home by eight.
Please don’t forget to feed my cat.”

“Be careful, Son, a storm is coming—
clouds of black men are on the rise.
They have chains and clubs, and crying
anger from their blood-shot eyes.”

~~~~~~~

“Oh, Mother, I am so afraid
that you were right, I saw, as such,
wave after wave, just like you said,
angry men running, yelling so much

and pointing their terrible knives,
but I ran as fast as I could,
me and my friend ran for our lives
through bushes and alleys and woods.”

“I told you, Son, that hatred swells
when any man has no heart.
If only we respected well
each other, then maybe we could start

to heal and put away distrust,
and all of us could live as one,
for in God’s eyes, this is a must,
then love for all just might be won.”

“Oh, Mother, I know that you are right
about all of this and that…
Thanks for caring for Black-n-White,
my wonderful colorblind cat.

Perhaps we can learn from that cat.”

John C. Mannone

John C. Mannone has work in Artemis Journal, Poetry South, Blue Fifth Review, New England Journal of Medicine, Peacock Journal, Gyroscope Review, Baltimore Review, Pedestal, Wordgathering: Journal of Disability Poetry and Literature, Poetica: Journal of Contemporary Jewish Writing and others. He’s a Jean Ritchie Fellowship winner in Appalachian literature (2017) and served as Celebrity judge for the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (2018). He has three poetry collections, including Flux Lines (Celtic Cat Publishing) forthcoming in 2018. He’s been nominated for Pushcart, Rhysling, Dwarf Stars and Best of the Net awards. He edits poetry for Abyss & Apex, Silver Blade, and Liquid Imagination. He’s the president of the Chattanooga Writers’ Guild and a retired professor of physics in east TN. http://jcmannone.wordpress.com

2 thoughts on “Baltimore 1968 – Poem by John C. Mannone”

  1. Dear John,
    Thank you for allowing me to be your friend on Facebook .
    I am Roger Harkins’ first cousin Claire.
    His mother and my father were siblings.

    I am very moved by your poetry.
    I especially enjoyed Baltimore 68-The year I graduated college.
    It was quite a time we grew up in me near Boston-you near Baltimore.

    Sex-Drugs-Rock and Roll
    Our parents are dubbed The Great Generation-survived depression and World War 2
    What is my son’s generation
    What has he survived?

    Would be a fascinating poem if you could intertwine the lives of a 100 year old WAR
    a 70 year old SEX
    a 40 year old RACISM-KILLING-HEDONISM—MISOGYNY
    a 40 year old

    1. Dear Claire,

      I am sorry for responding so late; I just saw your note (Sep 1, 2018). I am appreciative of your time to comment. And I am pleased that my poem moves you. I was there in the middle of the Baltimore riots and it would have been so easy for me to have grown up as a bigot, but I thank the Lord that I was able to transcend all of that. I love people, regardless of color, or any thing else. We are all His beautiful creation.

      I modeled the poem after the style of Dudley Randall, who wrote “Ballad of Birmingham” (https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46562/ballad-of-birmingham), which is a conversational rhyming poem (a style I rarely write in), but I like to write outside my comfort zone. (I hate to sound the same in all my poems, whether in content or structure). I fear being my own cliche (as too other, otherwise good, poets have done).

      As far as writing a poem on war, sex, racism, mysogyny, etc. all in one poem might be a bit of a challenge for me (but not for a rap artist). But thank you!

      Hoping Roger is fine. I miss all my friends from Calvert Hall…it seems it was a lifetime ago (actually, it was. I too am 70–but look like in my 50’s, have the energy of my 40’s, and mindset of my 30’s (just nicer)).

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