The Land Was Never Ours
The land was never ours, nor we the land's:
no, not in Selma, with the hose turned on,
nor in the valley picking the alien vines.
Nor was it ours in Watts, Montgomery--
no matter what the frosty poet said.
We heard the crack of whips, the mothers' moans
in anthems like an undertow of grief.
The land was never ours but we believed
a King's dream might some day become a deed
to what we did not own, though it owed us.
(Who had the luxury to withhold himself?)
No gift outright for us, we earned this land
with sorrows currency: our hands, our backs,
our Rosas, Martins, Jesses our Baracks.
Today we give our land what we withheld:
the right at last to call itself one nation.