Is it prudent to protest?

My eyes burn. I can’t see. The concrete is hot beneath my back. They keep chanting, “Babies keep on dying. Nobody seems to care.”

Did I hit my head? Why is nobody helping me?

“Nixon is a murderer,” they yell. “Bring our brothers home now!”

A piece of clarity returns. It took a long time to get to Miami. Nixon is giving his second acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.

I need Sam’s strong arms, the ones who promised to keep me safe if I agreed to come. Some Vietnam vet he is.

“Hold on, Frank,” a voice says.

“No, man. We gotta go. We’ll be arrested like the others.”

“I said hold on, dammit. I think I know this girl.”

I feel a hand on my forehead. “Chicken Coop? Is that you?”

Images float in my head—a mint green Pontiac. Crows pecking out eyes in an Alfred Hitchcock movie. Body parts in an unplugged freezer that make me want to laugh. I can’t. I’m too dizzy.

“Chicken Coop?”

It’s no longer 1972. It’s 1963 and I’m nine years younger. Now, it’s not the pig’s smoky gas that makes my tears.

(The beginning of my work in progress about race relations in 1963)


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