In China, hospitals skip the fourth
and the fourteenth floor
because four in Mandarin Chinese
the same pronunciation
as the word for death.
In the West, however,
4 is the symbol
for the completion of justice,
but maybe the Chinese
got it right.
Because on April 4th, 1968
Martin Luther King
hit a motel floor
hard enough to shake mountains
to deafen cities.
He fell to the concrete
a father of four children
and one country
adopted into segregation.
The next day, among the
Symphonic chaos of breaking glass,
with the heat of furious eyes
and a thousand fires.
All at once, the war
documented only in newspapers
and public signposts,
as black and white as fine print,
burst into angry color.
The whitewashed American canvas
was first blotted with red, seeping,
staining, pooling in driveways,
and then orange, thick and caustic
for the burning crosses brandished
by Tennessee’s ivory footsoldiers.
The people of America marched on asphalt
as gray as the soot dusting over demolished
voices rising like the smoke over D.C.,
“We March With Selma.
All Men Are Created Equal,
and I Am a Man.”
On April 4th, 2015
four days before I turned seventeen
four minutes from the high school
that preached to us about equality,
police sirens shrieked like the call
of harpies chasing prey -
a 1991 Mercedes with a broken taillight.
Walter Scott fled into the grey morning
as eight rounds cracked behind him
like snapping branches.
He was dead before he hit the grass
a father of four
forty-seven years after King.
Four for death, seven for luck
a fierce battle of wills snuffed out
by bad luck
and a police officer.
If it took only one bullet to shake America,
five hits in the back should bring it
to its knees and crumble it to dust,
but all is quiet on our battlefield.
To our country,
he is just another blip
on the bleeding timeline
of thousands of names before him.