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In a Summer of Snipers

By Joseph Ross

for Tommie Smith and John Carlos, 1968

In a summer of snipers
some men raised their hands

with fingers pressed
to triggers

trying to squeeze away
a generation's hope.

But you lifted your hands
to conduct a choir

just learning to sing
anthems of a victory

not yet won.
The world watched you,

standing shoeless,
like so many others,

with no protection
from the earth itself,

its bullets, its boundaries
real as a waiting noose,

a lynching tree,
and a gathering crowd.

You raised your hands,
gloved and black

and held us all
for just a moment

where no rope
could reach.

Added: Monday, July 7, 2014  /  Used with permission.
Joseph Ross
Photo by Ted Schroll.

Joseph Ross is the author of three books of poetry: Ache (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2017), Gospel of Dust (Main Street Rag Publishing, 2013) and Meeting Bone Man (Main Street Rag Publishing, 2012). His poems appear in many publications including, The Los Angeles Times, Poet Lore, Xavier Review, The Southern Quarterly and Drumvoices Revue. He has received multiple Pushcart Prize nominations and won the 2012 Pratt Library / Little Patuxent Review Poetry Prize. In 2014-15, he served as the 23rd Poet-in-Residence for the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society in Howard County, Maryland. His poem, “If Mamie Till Was the Mother of God” won the 2012 Pratt Library/Little Patuxent Review Poetry Prize. He teaches English and Creative Writing at Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C. and writes regularly at his website.

Other poems by this author