For John Lewis

The following poem has emerged in the last 10 months or so. It is written for John Lewis who passed away in July, 2020, in honor of his Alabama marches from Selma to Montgomery. Please know that I, in no way, want to be accused of poetic blackface or appropriating another race’s rhythm or rhyming way of speaking. I simply want to voice what is in my soul. Because I believe it is in there in that space – in the space of our souls – where we are all joined as one and ‘know’ each other’s journeys. (Note that there are links throughout the poem, which may help to give this subject more context.)

Dis Bridge

i’m walkin yeah i’m walkin
walkin cross dis bridge
walkin now for all of us
walkin cross dis bridge

see my feet in ragged shoes
shoes done worn from selma
come with vision come with pride
i’m walkin cross dis bridge

holdin vision for us all
beads of sweat upon my face
pumping next to concrete arch
walkin cross dis bridge

swinging rhythm for the pace
pushin to montgomery
yeah we pushin and we breathin hard
we walkin cross dis bridge

see my sisters next to me
linkin arms and hands and hearts
noddin to each other as we go
we’re walkin cross dis bridge

see our brothers close behind us
feel the purpose of the song
movin forward marchin strong
walkin cross dis bridge

then we take to hummin
yeah hummin o’er the river
hundred feet above the water
we’re walkin cross dis bridge

we listenin and wonderin
and hear hosea asking john
do you know, john, how to swim
john says, no we walkin, walkin cross dis bridge

neighbors come among us
tho there’s those don’t want us to cross
we end up fallin amelia‘s bleedin
walkin halfway cross dis bridge

try again we say, yes we try
with shoes on again start all over
all we gunna do is walk across it
we walkin cross dis bridge

more come to help build the strength
a growing crowd as we cross
we are building yes we’re building
gunna walk across dis bridge

no mind injuries and jailings
we do this walk again
this time we gonna make it
we still walkin for the end

Dedicated to John Lewis, who showed us how it’s done. How we start out, get knocked down, thwarted, and often beaten, only to stand up and start out again. John showed us how – though it may take many new starts – each time we go, we make more progress with each step. And though the walk he led brought us from Selma to Montgomery, you and I and he all know that we have much further to go. And I believe down deep that John is watching patiently, as always, waiting for us to arrive. Because he knows we will.


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