For the three activists abducted and murdered in Neshoba County,
Mississippi, in June 1964, during the Civil Rights Movement.

Celebrate this day as solstice,
the beginning of sunshine summer
that brings life to this tourist town
long bright days

lengthening into sunsets,
the smell of suntan oil and frying food
but the sun always sets, and I imagine

what the night meant
this same June on a deserted road
in Mississippi. And how quickly
the shadows are forgotten

because we see only summer sunlight.
I think of the headlights glaring
high and bright and blinding in the mirror.

On this longest day the night stretched
out fearfully before you. Is hatred more real
when they wear white and one of you is Black?
Shots fired in the darkness because you had

no right to live to work to breathe the same air.
I think of the night, of the heat still shimmering
from a Mississippi summer day, of the sweat
and fear and last desperate thoughts,

was it worth this? To stand up and say we too
have rights? To end up on a deserted
southern road and the last faces you see

are your killers’? On the longest day
in this seaside town, I can think only of you
and your longest night. Here at land’s end,
a place where people came to die from a plague

almost as virulent as the hatred that fired
those Mississippi shots in the night.
Here at land’s end, where humpbacks
swim summer after summer, entertaining

tourists and artists eke out a living and talk
about the light, here I think of your darkness.
On your summer solstice, on that longest day
your night brought you only death.

The tourists of my beachside home celebrate
with lobster dinners and bonfires
and sand in their shoes.

And I wonder how it is that we
have managed to forget.