On MLK’s Birthday

On the 86th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King,
activists, in solidarity with Black Lives Matter,
shut down I-93 with their arms locked together.

On a day when the world asks, Where are we now?
How far from the dream?
I am at work reading through angry comments

about people not getting to work on time
or people missing important meetings.
One comment exclaims, “I saw an ambulance get stuck!”

What about getting stuck in endless war in Iraq and Afghanistan,
and how Dr. King wouldn’t want anger to stop on
anonymous internet threads?

I hear the complaints:
“But everyday people have to get to work.”
“How is it revolutionary to cost them pay or even a job?”

“How is it revolutionary to keep a father from a custody meeting?
To keep an ill patient from getting immediate care?
To keep an immigrant from commuting because she is priced out of Boston?”

How do you attack the ruling class that wages endless war in our name?
How do you shut the system down?
How do you stop the violence of the capitalist system?

Maybe the pessimists are right. It’s useless.
But does the heart stare so coldly at the dead and dying?
How can we forgive ourselves if we are only a nation of onlookers?

That’s what haunts me. Becoming only the watching.
Silent disagreement. Giving up my principles
for the sake of having money to take care of myself.

How can I say that my detachment from my body and experiences
has nothing to do with the war against people of color?
The war against women? The war against “terror” abroad?

How can I go on writing poems about my confused mind
and never be willing to step outside the door
to report the weather and the state of affairs

that leave us all dead in different ways
with fist fulls of seeds to plant
for the bounty it will take to fight for civil rights again and again.


Artwork © Ira Joel Haber

Artwork © Ira Joel Haber


A. Pen is a Boston-area feminist activist who has been involved in organizing against sexism, racism, heterosexism, and economic inequality. She combines lessons from activism with writing a poem everyday, and she wishes to thank the brave activists of the Black Lives Matter Movement for such inspiration.

Ira Joel Haber was born and lives in Brooklyn. He is a sculptor, painter, book dealer, photographer and teacher. His work has been seen in numerous group shows both in USA and Europe and he has had 9 one man shows including several retrospectives of his sculpture. His work is in the collections of The Whitney Museum Of American Art, New York University, The Guggenheim Museum, The Hirshhorn Museum and The Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Since 2007 His paintings, drawings, photographs and collages have been published in over 160 on line and print magazines. He has received three National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, two Pollock-Krasner grants, the Adolph Gottlieb Foundation grant and, in 2010, he received a grant from Artists’ Fellowship Inc. He currently teaches art to retired public school teachers at The United Federation of Teachers program in Brooklyn.