Alberta Clipper: 6/30/15: “Shifting Winds” by James C. Kilgore


June 30th, 1936, marks the publication date of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind. Although today its reception is mixed—some still love it, while others find its controversial aspects more than troubling—it remains historically important, and if nothing else, it shows us the headway we’ve made as a society. “Shifting Winds” by James C. Kilgore appeared in the summer issue of Prairie Schooner in 1969, with the weather in Nebraska not surprisingly heating up. June saw highs of 99 degrees Fahrenheit. James C. Kilgore (1928-1988), a poet and essayist, worked in the English Department at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Ohio where he was extremely active in founding new and diverse writing associations in and around the Cleveland metro area. He published several works throughout his life, and was named Ohio Poet of the Year in 1982. Kilgore’s poem acts as a reminder that our efforts to achieve overall equality and equity across diversity—while significant since the release of Mitchell’s classic novel—are still in progress. —Mariah Reicks

James C. Kilgore
Shifting Winds

In the morning I wrote in black ink a dozen poems
                  about ghetto children deprived of food and shoes
                  and a concerned city that sent one notebook
                  to six school children;
I wrote of black mothers fighting the ice of apathy
                  that rings my city’s slums;
I wrote of black men trapped in the hot, spiraling fire
                  of ancient hate;
I wrote twelve tragic stanzas of hope dying
                  slowly on the dark streets of my city’s slums.

In the evening I turned on the news:

I saw fires blazing black through ghetto streets
                  and no fireman’s sirens sang;
I saw shoppers leaving stores,
                  arms filled:
                  they trotted under glaring sun,
                  looked back from the shelter of low-brimmed hats,
                  and trotted on.
I saw a lawman kill a bare-footed black child
                  clutching a loaf of bread
                  and a pair of ten-dollar shoes
                  on the cold-noon streets of Newark:
I saw a black mother lose her eyes on Cleveland’s East Side,
And I saw her baby die
                  when a guardsman saw black
                  and squeezed
                  his silver trigger.

In the nation’s capital,
                  there were snow flurries
and shifting winds.

Prairie Schooner, Vol. 43, No. 2 (Spring 1969)