Jimi Hendrix plays The Star-Spangled Banner at Max Yasgur’s Dairy Farm on August 18, 1969

You stood in the morning on
that high square scaffold wet
with yesterday’s rainwater braving
execution by tangled power cables and
towering half-ton speakers and
2000 amp transformers
remembering your parachute drops
in the 101st Airborne.

Genius is the moment when
you catch the miracle of moments

the rockets’ red glare
the bombs bursting in air
your coolness and capacity
as timely as napalm and
lynching and caged and crying
children giving proof through
our night of the dream that
stands and withstands all of time

the dream of things yearned
the visions of things promised
by flawed souls who strived
and strive still for flawless justice
on that brave day when
the shackles of liberty shall
burst open forever.

I kneel in vigilant humility
at the fullness of all that’s
faith full that
our great heart beats true
and traitors and demagogues
tremble at the thunder of
your song.

Wim Coleman is a playwright, poet, novelist, and nonfiction writer. His play The Shackles of Liberty was the winner of the 2016 Southern Playwrights Competition. Books that he has co-authored with his wife, Pat Perrin, have been published by Harmony Books, Pocket Books, and Bantam. Their award-winning novels include Anna’s World, which was the Silver Medalist in the 2008 Moonbeam Awards, and The Jamais Vu Papers, which was a 2011 finalist for the Eric Hoffer/Montaigne Medal. Wim and Pat lived for fourteen years in Mexico, where they adopted their daughter, Monserrat, and created and administered a scholarship program for at-risk students. Wim and Pat now live in Carrboro, North Carolina. They are active members of PEN International. Read other articles by Wim, or visit Wim's website.