It always comes back to the Prime Directive, which my father
claims was a protest of the Vietnam War.
Back then he saw himself, a Black Captain Kirk
cruising the cosmos in an Afro and tight gold shirt.
When he was eighteen, he tucked the doo-wop street corners
of his neighborhood into his back pocket and traveled
where no colored man had gone before. He crossed-over into suburbia
rang doorbell after doorbell while holding his breath, waiting
for a face to materialize. In this moment, he was Captain
of a starship and like the Klingons witnessing Kirk’s arrival
those housewives saw something alien
among their marigolds. Good afternoon,
sometimes the only part of his speech said before doors slammed shut.
Sometimes they invited him in, curious ladies wanting to know
why he wasn’t over in Vietnam or if he’d met Dr. King.
In living rooms haunted by the nightly news, he gave monologues
on the merits of Britannica, while they searched his face
for the fire they’d seen the night before on the sanitation workers
from Memphis who marched across the screen, I AM A MAN
on the signs they carried. Sometimes they chased him off before
he even had a chance to speak, shouting, throwing rocks
after him like you would a rabid dog. In some towns, the air itself
seemed to want his blood and he struggled to imagine
Spock and McCoy flanking him, their phasers ready.
On the road that summer, he owned nothing but the sky
and what he could imagine there.