Monday, January 19, 2015

One Man's Maple Moon: Freedom Song Tanka by Sergio A. Ortiz

English Original

I sleepwalk
on the way to Jericho
a man singing
Ain't gonna let nobody
turn me around

for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Sergio A. Ortiz

Chinese Translation (Traditional)



Chinese Translation (Simplified)



Bio Sketch

Sergio A. Ortiz is the founding editor of Undertow Tanka Review. He lives in San Juan Puerto Rico.  He is a four-time nominee for the 2010-2011 Sundress Best of the Web Anthology, and a two-time 2010 Pushcart nominee.


  1. The thematically effective pivotal line, "on the way to Jericho," becomes a meeting place of the past and the present, of the reality and the dream.

    And the freedom song, "Ain't gonna let nobody/turn me around," adds emotional weight and historical depth to the poem.

    Listen to the song here,


    "Jericho" is a biblically significant and historically rich place/symbol, which was used several time in Kin's "25 March 1965 Address" at the Conclusion of the Selma to Montgomery March:"

    There is nothing wrong with marching in this sense. (Yes, sir) The Bible tells us that the mighty men of Joshua merely walked about the walled city of Jericho (Yes) and the barriers to freedom came tumbling down. (Yes, sir) I like that old Negro spiritual, (Yes, sir) "Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho." In its simple, yet colorful, depiction (Yes, sir) of that great moment in biblical history, it tells us that:

    Joshua fit the battle of Jericho, (Tell it)
    Joshua fit the battle of Jericho, (Yes, sir)
    And the walls come tumbling down. (Yes, sir. Tell it)
    Up to the walls of Jericho they marched, spear in hand. (Yes, sir)
    "Go blow them ramhorns," Joshua cried,
    "‘Cause the battle am in my hand." (Yes, sir)

    You can read its full text here,

  2. Below is excerpted from "Going Down Jericho Road:The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King's Last Campaign" by Michael K. Honey

    The definitive history of the epic struggle for economic justice that became Martin Luther King Jr.'s last crusade.

    Memphis in 1968 was ruled by a paternalistic "plantation mentality" embodied in its good-old-boy mayor, Henry Loeb. Wretched conditions, abusive white supervisors, poor education, and low wages locked most black workers into poverty. Then two sanitation workers were chewed up like garbage in the back of a faulty truck, igniting a public employee strike that brought to a boil long-simmering issues of racial injustice.

    With novelistic drama and rich scholarly detail, Michael Honey brings to life the magnetic characters who clashed on the Memphis battlefield: stalwart black workers; fiery black ministers; volatile, young, black-power advocates; idealistic organizers and tough-talking unionists; the first black members of the Memphis city council; the white upper crust who sought to prevent change or conflagration; and, finally, the magisterial Martin Luther King Jr., undertaking a Poor People's Campaign at the crossroads of his life, vilified as a subversive, hounded by the FBI, and seeing in the working poor of Memphis his hopes for a better America.