Fred Hampton

The mad state’s attorney
Wants to burn Cook County to the ground
Standing on a platform
Above an apartment on West Monroe
And Judge Karlin there beside him
Just a little child at the time

They were armed with a warrant
That was signed by that lie
Which fills the halls of justice,
Freedom, hospitals and jails

They put four hundred chains on his wrist
Pressed him into a ground
That they’d slashed and burned
With blood red lines and the highway overpass

He gave free meals to the people
So they shot him down
They arrested the corpse they made
For assault against the law
Intelligent editors sprayed their tear gas
Saying no quarter for wild beasts

The poles of wealth and poverty
That keep the sighted scales unbalanced
At its root and center
Hidden from public view
By the courtroom’s deep and honored cloak

The warden and overseer class
Slouch and recline on the throne
One knee on a throat
The other holding up an arm
Which holds up a head
Contemplating Socrates
And Justice Roger Taney

Each night I weep a godless prayer
But I don’t know if I believe
It’s all set up so well
You’re either in the firing squad
Or you’re up against the wall

I loved him from a distance
Across time and money and space
I heard the assassin’s gun that morning
It woke me from a million miles away
I watched his killer on parade

Now there’s a flag that flies most everywhere
It covers us in glory
It covers us from above
But I just see guards and doors
And the tossing away of keys
Fifty muzzle flashes
And thirteen prison bars

If the devil could only cry
There’d never be another dry eye

The killers and their mailmen
Can make others serve their time
For the letter of the law is a ladder
With a top that will not reach the bottom
They convicted him of murder
Themselves the murdering class

Now there’s tears all over
They’re everywhere I walk
Every time the news comes on
They cover up the floor

If the devil could only cry
There’d never be another dry eye

He used to be just a man
But then they set him free
With lawyers’ guns and money
They made him the breath of you and me

William Hughes was born and grew up in Akron, Ohio. He is the author of a collection of poems from Six Gallery Press. He currently lives in Oakland, California. Read other articles by William.