Paul r. Harding Can't Breathe

Four Hours (for Michael Brown)

four hours was four thousand
hours ancestors were waving
from a distance where his
body ivory coast shore lay
four four four for four

hours long amistad atlantic fingers
letting go of jail cell bars behind
his body on a ferguson street
wailed silent as north star shines
where his black angel lingers.

four hours his sun face
parallel the curb eyes meet
afraid in the bush history lay
arms and legs and backs of
gods language mother raped
in founding fatherless hours.

four on four downbeat hours
out there on the street not
far down this america’s gutter
for four hours left breathless
not a soul not a touch not
of human heart a flutter

for four in case you forgot
four if conscience of a country
wrist worn african dug gold watch
one dred scott day in his shoes
of before trigger pulled walked

four hundred years abused
the cold street God stalked
for four hours heart lifelessly.

four hours four hours four hours
four little girls in birmingham
cutting down our black flowers
for every soul shot down i am
four hours on the street left
four hours on the street left
in a prayer each taken breath.


Paul r. Harding's published work includes full-length book of poetry, Hot Mustard & Lay Me Down (En Theos Press, 2003), and selections of verse in Konch, Transition 112, Coon Bidness, Berkeley Poetry Review, Raven Chronicles, Earshot Jazz and various anthologies. ‘Spoken Music’ performer with legendary Charles Gayle, Gary Bartz, Ravi Coltrane, Michael Bisio, Joe McPhee (recording Remembrance, CjR, 2001) and other renowned musicians. Former Earshot Jazz Board of Directors President, former Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle Education Director and founder of ULMS Children’s University. Currently teaches for the Liberty LEADS program at Bank Street College of Education and tutors literacy for Highbridge Voices in the Bronx.

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