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Two Days in April: A poem for the 50th anniversary of the murder of Martin Luther King Jr.



Coretta Scott King and her daughter Bernice, 5, are shown April 9, 1968, attending the funeral of her husband, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Atlanta, in this Pulitzer-prize winning file photograph taken by Moneta J. Sleet, Jr., the first African-American to win a Pulitzer Prize for photography. (AP Photo/Moneta J. Sleet, Jr.) MONETA J. SLEET, JR.

Two Days in April

April 4, 1968

At 6:01 p.m.
Martin Luther King Jr.
was shot by a white
supremacist named
James Earl Ray
while standing
on the balcony
of the Lorraine Motel
in Memphis, Tennessee.
At 7:05 p.m.
he was pronounced
dead—killed,
according to
an expert panel
of forensic pathologists,
by a single “soft-point,
metal-jacketed bullet
fired from a distance
by a high-velocity rifle.”
The bullet, a .30-06,
entered his right cheek
and traveled
in a downward motion,
shattering his jaw,
tearing through
“numerous vital arteries”
and fracturing his spine
in several places.
He was 39 years old.

April 9, 1968

After seeing her father
so still in the casket, his youngest daughter
Bernice, pigtails in white-
lace bows, fidgeted
before laying her head
on her mother’s lap
and listening.
 
 
 
Michael Judge has published poems in The Southern Review, The Literary Review, The Iowa Review and Poet Lore, among other publications. A poet, editor and freelance journalist, he lives and works in Iowa City, Iowa.


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