Strange Fruit Villanelle

(April 5, 1968, Alton Senior High School)
America needed to watch its back.
When ignorance swelled like fruit on hatred’s tree,
My best friend in high school was black.
America feasted on this loathsome crap,
When hopeful King was gunned down from his dream,
America needed to watch its back.
I’ll recall how whites that day in school talked smack,
How bigots blindly hurled hateful obscenities.
My best friend in high school was black.
Blacks marched out, whites threw rocks to pelt the pack,
Cops beat back blacks blue and red; white kids cheered in glee.
America needed to watch its back.
Alton broke me on its racist rack,
Tortured me with its bloody irony.
My best friend in high school was black.
That things now have changed is mostly fact,
Yet so many still yearn to be free.
Those scars and stripes that welt my back,
Sting like the cuts lashed on my friend’s back.
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