Free Verse Poetry

Enough of This, We Need…

Odes to Black Lives Matter.

…Truth: For Cyntoia and Kalief

How many white people does it take
To free just one black woman
And one black man
To deem them worthy enough
For your hard line to mercy
To deem them fit to return 
To “Civilized Living”—if that’s what you call it—

How Many? 

You dragged her out of a room, out of a locked house
Where some man took her, and called her Prostitute/Thief/Murderer
And when Voices called out for the little girl that was thrown away
Then and only then did you see her as she was: young and imperfect. Human.

How Many?

You grabbed him off the street, and even when
He told you to check his pockets (because he had nothing to hide)
You still took him in, and forced him into a silent box 
(Like a coffin) for fifteen months 

How Many?

You threw them away
Like nothing
Like a piece of old paper
You crumbled in your fist and threw
Into an empty wire basket
And left it for someone else to deal with 
(Like some janitor or cleaner)
So you didn’t have to get your own hands dirty

How Many?


Without a beat of the heart, a flicker of 
the eye, a pregnant pause, for Clarity.

Too Many.

…Ease: For Ahmaud and Walter

How many white people will it take 
To gun down a kid for 
“Jogging While Black”
And to shoot a father in the back for
Fleeing the scene about some broken tail light

How Many? 

They said the kid was stealing
They said the father grabbed for the taser
What would the truth have been
Without the videos?

How Many? 

You chased them down
neighborhoods and city roads
And told lies to mothers
And wrote lies on reports
Like they were nothing, just things
You could frame how you like

How Many? 

Like they were made for you 
To exact Law and Order upon
From a Book in a language we 
can’t read (and in words we never wrote)
Like priests did back in the day
When selling their indulgences, at the perfect 
price, to line pockets and fill them to bursting, taken
From the barren (and all-too-trusting) hands of the illiterate

How Many?

Without a beat of the heart, a flicker of
the eye, a pregnant pause, for Familiarity.

Too many

…Relief: For Oscar and Ezell

How many white people does it take
To respond appropriately to a call for help
To find the right people
To behave the right way

How Many?

What orders were there to obey?
While you punched and kneed heads into the ground
While you slammed bodies on every concrete surface
While you claimed to be frightened
To justify your actions
When really you terrified bystanders so much
That they were compelled to document and report
(They did your job for you by the way)
While you behaved like wild animals

How Many?

He had his hands up in supplication
While you taunted, “Bitch ass nigger, right?”
And said he goaded you
He had his hands up
While you yelled and cursed and in your head, 
Thought he was taunting you
He had his hands up and begged you
Not to tase him—maybe he knew what was coming—
He had his hands up 
When you knelt on his neck and
Said he was under arrest for resisting an officer
And, no, his hand was not reaching
For anything but compassion, for anything but a different 
End to the same goddamn story
While you in your frenzy shot him in the back 
Because you couldn’t reach his peaceful hands (you cowards)

How Many?

That bullet pierced his lung and ricocheted off
The concrete walls you smashed his body into, and
He cried for his 4-year-old girl who would only have a father
For seven more hours
Because of you wild animals
(Marisol, how could you?)

How Many?

A whole community rallied for him
Watched you chase him down in 13 seconds flat
They told you who he was—that he had mental problems—
And you didn’t listen (you never do.)

How Many?

You said you drew your gun because you were in 
a gang area (and we’re all in gangs, right?)
We said he raised his hands when you exited the vehicle
You said he whirled around and attacked as you approached
We said he didn’t tackle nobody; you tackled him
You said he concealed his hands, was probably hiding 
From you to hide the drugs in a bush
(Didn’t find ‘em, did you?)
We said he was laying down and complying, before you
Shot him three times, while he was already down
You said he grabbed for your pistol, 
That (in 13 seconds, mind you) “the fight was on”

How Many?

It was all they said, we said
It was always Us & Them
It is always our struggle our accounts, versus
All your “protocols” and walls of men and women
Meant to serve and protect
‘Cept they’re doing it more for themselves, these days 

How Many?

In 13 seconds, you:
cornered a person
tackled him down
and shot him three times
Then when his mama came out, you
Didn’t console her, you
Got the clubs out instead, and 
Beat her down, just like her son
And told her you’d beat her ass if she moved, you
Refused to tell her which hospital
He was dying in

How Many?

And because we “gathered” at the scene, then you chose
To say nothing. Not one word. 

How Many?

Without a beat of the heart, a flicker of
the eye, a pregnant pause, for Charity.

Too many

…Good Faith: For Natasha and Andre

How many white people does it take
To see a black woman’s struggle
without blame
To see beyond a black man (suffering)
before knocking him down some more

How Many?

How quickly you see a person as an animal
(And treat her accordingly) — How much more degradation
could you exact on such a fragile mind?
She was so close, so close to Alexandria, and dignity
And rights, and Civility and everything 
that you didn’t give her.

How Many?

It took six. To hold down a 130-pound woman
What she must have thought: At the sight 
of an officer and hazmat-suited goons 
dragging her out of a cell and tasing her 
until she passed out because
she wouldn’t bend her knees. 
Did she really deserve to go out like that?

How Many?

If her dignity, her sense of humanity, 
could be diminished any more: 
You did this to her 
while she laid there, naked, 
and feared the force you clothed her in instead

How Many?

An accident? Do you really think that’s a pill
we can swallow? An accident? Tell that to 
her 7-year-old-daughter. (now motherless) 
Then let her watch the video — I dare you — 

How Many?

He said, “I’m not feeling well,” 
and thought you’d offer help. 
So you called the EMTs
And the police — which ones you think
responded first? 

How Many?

You called his mom and dad
And told them to come quick
So they rushed to the airport
Only to be called and told
They were too late
They couldn’t be there for their son
In his last moments

How Many?

Instead he got a strange crowd, who watched
A black man in need of medical help, 
get tased instead. (Are you surprised?)
Three times was enough for them; 
three times was too many
For us.

How Many?

So his life ended with four or five of you, and with
Screams and yells and blows and 
two tasers to the chest, and you kept going until
You stopped to wonder (“Is he breathing?”) 
You should have been asking 
“How can we serve?” 
before all that escalation, 
that you tried to blame on him. (But we know the Truth.)

How Many?

You stopped their hearts from beating
And replaced them with electric shocks 
Like they did back in the day
to cure mania and depression
(I thought we’d already learned from those mistakes.) 

How Many?

Without a beat of the heart, a flicker of
the eye, a pregnant pause, for Sincerity.

Too many.

…Equality: For All Black Lives

How many black people will it take
To cry for peace, for justice, for release
To cry for an equality you’ve made
Impossible to gain
After proving time and time again, that
Non-white skin is something to be despised, and
Restrained

Without a beat of the heart, a flicker of 
the eye, a pregnant pause, for Parity.

Too many. 
Too many.
Too many.
Too many.
Too many.
Too many.
Too many.
Too many.
Too many.
Too many.
Too many.
Too many.
Too many.
Too many.

Too many.

Too many.

Too many.

Too many.

Too many.

Too many.

Too many.

Too many.

Too many.

Too many.

0 comments on “Enough of This, We Need…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: