All that stood has fallen, all the windows broken
by promises. The inner-city collapses
into hopeless clatter. I once rode the raised subway
over the steam heat from men near financial ruin,
slumped by restless energy misplaced by failure
after failure, floundering past the grated gates
and wired windows of the liquor store robbed
seven times in one day. Next door is the hopeless
porn store with the blackened-eye woman
grasping at her fading beauty, one trick too many,
glaring at the holier-than-thou people entering
the church, recognizing half of the men.
And the hat women sneer at that tired-out woman
selling what remains of her last best year.
All who has fallen, once proud,
watch their moments rush by them,
uncommented, as I head elsewhere, a blur
into the future, only Marvin could see.
There is a breeze, brother, shaking the trees,
rumbling like the subway taking a turn. All fallen
people are heading towards disaster at every exit.
And you saw it, Marvin, a comet coming
to take us all, grind us, wear us down.
Some saw the urban blight at each rough turn,
but still headed towards it like a sax solo.
You saw it, Marvin. It was 1971. I was back
from a war that tore your brother’s soul, spit it out,
gave him nothing to return to, certainly no jobs.
Some men were all bitter and bronzed by war,
unable to look at anyone without feeling ashamed.
The itchiness of protest simmered deep in our bones.
Marvin, you addressed our pain. Your sorrow poured
into a flute or robin’s solo. The earth was heaving pain.
Music came from the scarred land and people,
from graffiti walls and tenements with broken toilets,
from the churches offering salvation, from your song
on the radio. Some still run head-long over a cliff.
Forty-five years later, Marvin, you’re still warning us.
All that had fallen, once stood, once had music.
Makes me wanna holler.