Dear Martin,
I’m still singing about you
When they arrested me for protesting apartheid, the handcuffs felt comfortable
Like wedding rings
Like coming home to you and your visions, too big to be shackled by policemen’s accessories
I became a prisoner, the way I became a pastor and a protestor with you
The kids got arrested with me, Martin
They’re old enough now
Back then, I locked them up at home for the sake of their safety
In a house that was never really safe
When angry words came crashing through our windows, I swallowed the threats to myself and the baby, swallowed them like vinegar, slicing the throat and the resolve with that silver pain
Being with you meant saying yes to the possibility of death at any moment
I said “I do” every morning
Said “I do” when the children asked me if I thought black people were pretty
Raised little Yolanda to find Negroid skin and hair beautiful
But I brought out the flatiron for the interviews
Powdered my face and put on red lipstick for the interviews
Spoke clipped and breathy like those white women to show that the South that made me black also made me a lady
Helping people remember that was the whole point
On April 4th, 1968, I told the children the next time they saw you, you would be lying down, you would not be speaking
When little Dexter asked when you were coming home, I lied
All those “I do”s and I still wasn’t ready for this day
I told the reporters that someone like you comes around once in a lifetime
And look what they did to you after thirty-nine years
I mothered a Movement for you
That day, I widowed it
Wore all black and went back to marching
I led your followers
Built a memorial around your childhood home, an altar to your visions
I refused to be sad on your birthday; I made the whole country celebrate it instead
I added injustices to my to do list
Saw history repeating itself in South Africa and said, Oh no
Not while his dreams are still ringing in my ears
I told our people to march when I saw them try to do to queer people what they did to us
When they said, I shouldn’t be putting your name on such things
I told them they heard you wrong when you explained what injustice was
I am always trying to do you justice
I sign my name beside yours, where it should be
Coretta Scott King
A girl who wanted to be a singer and married a revolution