Originally posted 1/30/2004; revised, 6/9/2014.
Originally titled “Songs Against Police Shootings.”
Once again, a brown teenage boy
onto the floor of a stairwell.
Once again, a cop states
that he thought he saw
Do you remember them? Do you remember
her, lying in the street
with her eggshell nails and skinny legs?
whose house smelled of wine
and buzzed like a glove full of bees?
When they banged down his door
they thought a host of tiny troubles
might fly out of its ramshackle fingers
so they shot him down as he stumbled out,
shot him down as if he were
a queen, a danger queen.
all the dead salty-throated
boys and girls
who were in the wrong places
at the wrong time — the places where
mothers’ magic stops working?
Here you are again,
too familiar with this, too familiar
to second guess — yet you do, saying
was just a short cut
to the next building,
it was never meant to be
his final destination;
how does this happen?
You know how it happens.
You know that
is the wrong question.
You know he should have been able
to go anywhere
without this happening.
You tell this
to anyone who will listen, although
you cannot say any of their names aloud.
You try to remember them all —
so many names in one story.
You tremble as you count them.
They are safe and sleeping,
and you will not be the one
to wake them from sleep; instead
you choose to stand watch,
to sound the alarm,
to fight the urge for going —
the urge to turn away, to be safe,
to second guess, to hide,
to ignore, to pretend.