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Lay for the Day
10th September

1962: the US Supreme Court upholds the right of James Meredith to take a place at the University of Mississippi. ‘Ole Miss’ had never had a black student before.
When Meredith was taken secretly onto the campus in Oxford, Mississippi, to enroll, on the night of 30th September, rioting broke out. Two people were killed and many injured in the ensuing violence and eventually the army had to be called in to restore order. Bob Dylan commemorated the events in his song ‘Oxford Town’.
The previous part of ‘The Blue Lion’ appears on 9th September.

The Blue Lion part 4

The blue lion whelps in Liverpool
nearby the auction block
and in London, Dakar and Capetown
beyond the road block,
even in Tokyo, Berlin, Moscow,
the blue lion makes a home,
returns home everywhere.
Meanwhile the ripping up of the future
goes on.

In my home, in my bedroom
the blue lion befriended me.
A long way he came;
I could listen to the stories all night.
He became strength to me,
an example,
became the one thing bigger
than inspiration,
an incarnation.

Meanwhile the blue lion lies wounded
in the gutter,
set upon by robbers,
set upon by cops.
Meanwhile the guns multiply
in the gullies and in the projects.
Meanwhile a white estate goes by
with the bass shaking the road, Do you know
Social Living is the best?

Has anyone here
seen the blue lion?
Freed a lot of people,
five centuries old,
purrs like a saxophone,
runs like an Olympic gold medallist,
last seen in chains,
believed to be
bound for glory.


John Gibbens
from Three Histories


The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar