Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

Shifting Winds

Shifting Winds

By James C. Kilgore

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)


James C. Kilgore

James C. Kilgore (1928-1988), poet and essayist, was born in Jackson Parish, Louisiana. He earned his BA in English at Wiley College and his MA at the University of Missouri. A veteran of army service, Kilgore served as a telegrapher (1952-1954) in Italy, Austria, and Germany. After teaching high school English in Arkansas, New Jersey, and Missouri, he moved to Cleveland where he was an assistant professor of English at the Cuyahoga Community College, where he founded the Cuyahoga Writers Conference in 1974 and helped organize an Urban Writers Workshop Series in Cleveland. He also served as an adjunct professor of Afro-American literature at the University of Akron. He received fellowships from Case Western Reserve University in 1964, University of Nebraska in 1966, and University of California, Santa Barbara in 1968. In 1982, he was named Ohio Poet of the Year.

Return To TOC