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Lay for the Day
28th August

1963: Dr Martin Luther King speaks to a huge Civil Rights rally in Washington, concluding with the celebrated peroration, “I have a dream”.
Dr King was pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, when he first rose to national prominence. He had helped organise a boycott of the city’s buses after Rosa Parks was arrested on 1st December 1956 for refusing to relinquish her seat to a white man. The boycott lasted until 20th December, when the Supreme Court ruled Montgomery’s segregation laws unconstitutional.
The campaign in Montgomery launched a nationwide movement of direct, non-violent action in pursuit of Civil Rights, of which the Washington march was the high-water mark. Through organisations like the SNCC (Student Non-violent Co-ordinating Committee) and CORE (Congress of Racial Equality), the Civil Rights movement was the shaping force of the broader political activism and ‘counterculture’ of the 1960s.
The next part of ‘The Blue Lion’ appears on 4th September.

The Blue Lion part 1

The blue lion is the night.
He is full of eyes
reaching from horizon to horizon.
He watches over the hunters
sleeping on the plain
and sees them taken
by the slavers with their guns.
They are never to be free again
nor to call him the blue lion.

The blue lion is a blue sea
and each white tooth
in his wide mouth is a shark.
They follow for black meat
after the black keel,
fresh, infected meat.
They will be fed daily
once the disease takes hold.
They weave the water outside the hold.

He is made of the suffering
inside the hold.
The blue lion is king of sufferings.
The little children come to him,
the mothers, the husbands.
Many who would come to him
can’t come to him.
He becomes iron
in the blackness, stench and pain.

He becomes burning iron
in the marketplace.
His entire flank is covered in brands
and to each of these brands
in time he will answer.
It is an indictment not to be erased
in letters of fire
on a tablet of bronze,
in letters of blood on the sun.

The blue lion is torn to pieces.
The bleeding parts are sent
different places
up and down the green river.
Now is always the last
the wife saw of her husband,
the daughter remembers of her mother.
But the parts of the blue lion
will find each other.


John Gibbens
from Three Histories


The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar