Author Diane Taylor (“The Gift of Memoir” & other books) shared this with me and I got her permission to share it with you. Thank you, Diane.
Let me tell you about my son Benjamin and Dr. Martin Luther King, and how I came to write the poem below. And also why I am bringing the poem to light after it has been dormantly lying with a collection of other poems in a bottom drawer for the past thirty-seven years, accessible to my eyes only.
Most people come of age in their teens. I came of age during the Civil Rights era of the 1960s. I was well aware of Dr. Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech when in 1964 I grabbed the chance to march with many others down Yonge Street in Toronto against segregation in Selma, Alabama. Bus loads of Canadians travelled to Selma to encourage Black voter registration – which had only recently become legal. It was my first year teaching.
In his speech, Dr. King said he could see “One day when little black children would walk hand in hand with little white children …” He was shot and killed in 1968.
In the early ‘80s, I had the opportunity to live and work – on a conch farm – in a primarily Black community on a small island in the Caribbean. By then, I was the mother of a one-year-old. It was pure joy for me to see my little white child playing with little black children, living out Martin Luther King’s Dream.
In the islands, there was the chance to right the wrongs of the past, to live life the way it should be lived, free from the prejudices of race and colour.
I have a photo of little Ben playing in the sand with his little black friend Nevil. They are both three and a half. The ocean is placid just a few feet away. They are both on their knees, bodies energetically engaged in a fantastic creation, both with their weight on one arm while the other arm is madly pulling sand into a castle that defies archeological logic, but is clearly amazing to both of them. And they had to be fast, for the sun was almost down, on another prefect day, and their mothers would soon be taking them home.
Ben died not long after that photo. A Benless future was unimaginable and unacceptable. Poems were a way of connecting with his spirit and keeping him with me. I shared them with family at the time, but not since. They are too tender a part of me to be casually shared.
Then, George Floyd. After so many others. That’s why this is the right time and the right place for the boy named Benjamin to emerge from the bottom drawer into the light.
For Martin Luther King
She had a dream
That one day
Her little blond boy
Would walk hand in hand
With little black children.
The dream came to pass
They walked hand in hand
Trekked island paths
Built castles in the sand
Ran Time into the ground.
But, it turns out it’s Time
Noncommittal and cold
Does the running
And Time runs out
Into the costly cosmos.
Dr. King? That little blond boy –
Please take his hand in yours.
37 thoughts on “Benjamin & Dr. Martin Luther King – A Guest Post”
That is so sweet and so sad. As I was reading it, I was not expecting an ending so final.
Thank you. Some things are final, aren’t they.
This is precious and thought-provoking on so many different levels. Thank you for sharing your heart with us at this difficult time, Diane; and thank you for making sure we could all experience this story and poem, Cynthia.
Thank you. This was the right time.
Oh, gosh. Yes.
I love the poem that you have shared with us.
You had a beautiful time and experience on that Caribbean island with your son Benjamin.
Thank you for sharing this beautiful poem and your memories of the civil rights marches, with us
Annette, yes indeed. Those civil rights years were powerful and instructive.
Many of us had similar experience. Young children only see a child and a friend.
A large number of UT college students and members of the Houston Jewish community marched with MLK in Selma.. “Treat others as you wish to be treated yourself. Love one another.” Ghandi and steady, purposeful, peaceful protests. We all marched in one place or another with the same goals and method.
So many have forgotten – the efforts of all and the costs…cost shared by many
My oldest cousin was murdered because she stood for equality and marched. Case is still open if anyone would like to confess.
This all brings back the frustration and the sadness – those who prefer violence to being human.
Peace. And steady on
I’m glad to meet up with you, someone who went to Selma, here on Cynthia’s blog, and who marched with MLK. And your cousin – so many unbearable losses. Peace to you.
So poignant, warm and written from the heart. Writing like this is therapy and yes, too tender to share but I am glad she did.
You’re right, it is therapy to use one’s experiences and words like nourishment – for others and oneself – on the road to justice.
Thank you Diana for sharing your tender and heartwrenching story and poem. May they walk hand in hand again one day.
Brad, what a lovely thought. Thank you.
This is a beautiful and moving guest post, Cynthia. Thank you, Diane, for sharing your story and very moving poem. I am in tears.
Lavinia, the words we pick are like notes of music …
Oh. oh. Every aspect of Diane’s story, and her powerful, heart-wrenching poem, speaks to the changes that must happen now, finally. The voices of justice must be heard.
Jane, absolutely, it’s all about justice finally, and as I’m sure you’ve heard, so many changes have already been made. The US navy will no longer allow the confederate flag, and dozens of other changes in the right direction.
Indeed, Diane. I am cautiously, ever so cautiously optimistic for the first time ever. And I am heartened by the broader message being taken up around the world, including indigenous systemic racism (especially here in Canada) and the horrors of the colonialist legacy (UK and elsewhere). If not perfect, at least heads can no longer be in the sand. ❤️
Sharing with tears streaming… ❤ Hugs, prayers and hope… 🙏
Bette: thank you. Thank you.
Mingling with my own … an oasis of hope.
How beautiful. Heart felt – peaceful – poignant – painful yet hopeful. Thank you so much for sharing this Cynthia.
Sent from my iPhone
I know how hard it is to lose a child I have lost two. I hope that lovely memory of your son fulfilling MLK’s dream comfort you. Thanks for sharing your loss in your poem.
My heart goes out to you – thanks for connecting with me on this soul-deep level. To share that poem once again after all these years, and at this time of hope for change, does bring comfort – as you intuitively knew. I trust you have found a path to peace. Take good care of yourself.
In tears here.
Hilary, I know you hope with me that change is coming. Glad to see you here.
I was moved by Diane’s poem and its genesis. It’s the right time to share it and share it widely.
Liz: thank you for your belief in righting wrongs, in rising from history’s pain.
You’re welcome, Diane. We have to.
Thank you for sharing your tragic experience and your beautiful poem. May your hope become a reality.
Clare: Maya Angelou wrote a poem called When Great Trees Fall when Dr. King was killed. It ends this way: They existed. They existed. / We can be. Be and be / better. For they existed./ These words anchor me in hope for change that I feel is happening. The entire poem can be found in an online search.
Thank you, Diane.
I’m so sorry for your loss Diane, it’s still an important dream and thank you for sharing it.
Andrea, thanks for that thought – you’re right, it is still an important dream, one to keep alive in our minds and lead us to our higher selves. To Dr. King’s ‘mountain top’.