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MLK, AJH, IHN and the 65

MLK, AJH, IHN, and the 65



Be Essential

Be Solid

Be Constructive


This inscription on the billboard of a SEPTA bus

Stood leering at the single dads who said, “Who, us?”

With the swinging of a hammer, singing out the pain

Takes me back to Peter Yarrow, can’t forget the name


When the streets were full of marchers (was it worth the fuss?)

Some put flowers in machine guns (might they root in dust)

Some let silence wax poetic as they blocked the streets

Now their children and their children don’t have what to eat


If I were a hammer, I would hammer in the morning

Throw out of the shelters into weather that was storming

I would hammer in the evening open up the doors

As the homeless stumble back from work, can’t take any more.


But the justice and the freedom to the wolves were cast

Cuz the passions of the people, they’re too hot to last

“The words of the prophets still speak to us today”

But with eardrums made of platinum we can’t hear to obey


Be Essential!

Be Solid!

Be Constructive!


The bare_ foot ba_ by crying for his mother

Opens door after door seeking comfort from another

You’re not too young to see that you must make your space

Find whatever arms will love in-a-world that has no face


The justice that will flow like a mighty stream

Swept the fathers and the brothers in a lifeless seam

Called the prisons and the shelters and the corners, too

Empty days of bleak dependence they are beckoning you


Frozen women’s hands button up your diapers

Though the touch is cold, the heart is warm, so you don’t fight her.

Circle time is spent around donated heaters

Charity from members is a vital feature


No one taught the rich that freedom isn’t free.

It’s dragged in chains from across the sea.

It’s loaded in the bottom of a rotting boat

All the “tempest-tost” of ghettos yore who just sought hope.


Be Essential

Be Solid

Be Constructive



Be Essential

Be Solid

Be Constructive



Rich kids drown in books that kids in shelters lack

Hunger and privation team to hold you back

Head on your desk, dinner wasn’t much

Now your teacher tries to reach you though she cannot touch


Hungry and distracted, you can make few friends

Slogging through the morning for the classes to end.

One decent meal is all you get today

Til the charter’s budget cuts take half the food away


Come to graduation and you got no skills,

Fall into the swamp, no way to pay the bills.

Hustling your loosies doesn’t pay the rent

Twenty years, you wonder where your chances went


In search of a name you screwed a willing girl

She bragged to her sistahs that she rocked your world

Three seasons on they make you take a test,

Just another kid in poverty; you know the rest.


Be Essential!

Be Solid!

Be Constructive!



Be Essential!

Be Solid!

Be Constructive!



About Ronald FIschman

I am a public school teacher who had a prior career as a cantor, opera singer, and composer. My greatest notoriety comes from my settings of Dylan Thomas's "Vision and Prayer" and Percy Byssshe Shelley's "Ozymandias" for singers and large instrumental ensemble. My first poetry collection, "Generations," honors the roles of son, husband, and father, and is available at

2 responses »

  1. Ron, if you don’t mind, I would like to copy this to share with one of my acquaintances who is a poet also.


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