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Lay for the Day
9th September

1957: a new Civil Rights Act passes into law in the United States, the first legislation on this issue for 82 years. Its predecessor, the Civil Rights Act of 1875, had required equal provision for blacks and whites in public facilities, but this had quickly been perverted into a long-lasting policy of segregation, defended under the rubric of “separate but equal” treatment. The 1957 Act was actually pretty toothless, but it marked the beginning of a new era.
The previous part of ‘The Blue Lion’ appears on 4th September. The final part appears on 10th September.

The Blue Lion part 3

The black snake moan
of the whip. Trenches
in the red clay.
A bloody arm
in a blue sleeve,
a muddy grey back
trampled in the advance,
trampled in the retreat.
Crimson splashes on the midnight blue lion.

The Delta Dog’s brakeman
brings a copy of the Yellow Dog Blues.
The blue lion’s pupils
drop discs of black vinyl.
A black man with a diamond in his tooth
drives a big car, a Packard
which belongs to him.
His axe is in the back seat.
A white ignoramus calls him “Boy!”

The blue lion thinks of Africa.
He gets a job in Chicago,
composes Ko-Ko,
In a Mellotone and Muggles,
breaks the mould.
He crosses the ocean by Cunard,
by the White Star Line.
Congratulations to the coloured band,
an audience with the King.

Meanwhile, rats, restlessness,
rancour, terror, hopelessness
of meanwhile being forever,
generations passing through
the fire to Moloch.
Sterno, murder, crack, misery,
the racist etcetera,
the ripping up of the future.
The blue lion thinks of a king in Africa.

And begins to resist.
And begins to register.
And begins with rhythm
to gain ground,
to be present beyond all exclusion.
Oh God that auction block
I thought began to shake and rattle.
I do believe the stone
shall rock and roll.


John Gibbens
from Three Histories


The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar