I wrote this poem a few years ago in light of Ferguson, Michael Brown, and too many other black men and women who have been mistreated, deprived of dignity, and killed by our system of law enforcement.
SOME THOUGHTS ON VENGEANCE*
Dry hissing breath from sun-leathered men
becomes whistling spite between their teeth
– kernels hanging on the cob touched
by the husks of their racist tongues.
When they stare, they stare at flesh.
But what they see are ends that mean
the devil and angels are one and the same
lifting them on the crow’s frayed wings.
For generations they’ve picked at carcasses
after they smashed the shit right out of them,
dragged them through mud, hung them high, or
lashed their black bodies to split rail fences.
We knew they’d feud and lynch ‘til they’d meet
the law’s sunglasses, motorcycles, and batons
wielded by men who are wielded by men
who know so much better because of the law.
Today, I’m thinking about the people around me who are genuinely afraid of the Trump presidency: my student who’s dropping out because of one of their parents is undocumented, the kids at the local high school who’ve been harassed and told they’re going to be deported, the Muslim women in Louisiana and California being harassed, the black men so enraged that they attacked a white motorist and…and the list goes on.
My heart and thoughts were so down a few months ago as I watched and listened to Philando Castile’s girlfriend Diamond Reynolds talk through that nightmare made me cry on the way to work today. That woman’s daughter had to watch all of that and then was strong for her mother. Meanwhile, the cops were all consoling their fellow officer and providing no emergency care to Castile. And in the deep south Alton Sterling was summarily executed by officers,
“…men who are wielded by men,
who know so much better because of the law.”
And Rudy Giuliani, the stop-and-frisk mayor, as attorney general. What does that mean?
Peace my friends. We have to rise and fight another day. But today, live for peace.
*This poem is in my book Heartwood.