2015 Makeda Bilqis Literary Awards Winner
Song for Mike Brown
By Carlos Andrés Gómez
Find a picture of an adolescent
mimicking what he thinks makes
him worth something. Brand
clumsy puberty as blood thirst.
Transform peace sign into gang sign.
And, suddenly, six shots at the base
of his skull, sprinting, with back
turned, is self-defense for a cop
armed like a mercenary.
Transmute a hooded sweatshirt
from the college he was to attend
into a prison jumpsuit, into a fist,
a weapon aimed at your face.
How can a country built from
a single document drafted
to protect white, land-owning
men claim to humanize all
of its citizens? (Half of which
were considered less than
cattle this morning.) The woman
in South Carolina has no response
when I ask her why the killing
of three dogs made her protest,
write letters, boycott, while
the murder of a defenseless black
child inspired not a single word
from her lips. Loud music, blocking
the middle of a residential street,
a wallet, in a quivering, outstretched
palm, a back sprinting away in fear,
a woman banging on a door, a boy
walking, lost in thought, a stutter,
a whistle he learned to cope with
his stammer, a toy rifle in a Walmart,
when the implication of blackness
is always absolution from murder.
I met my nephew when he was
28 days old. He giggled a crown
of sonnets as I held him, sweat
through his onesie, offered me
the blooming tenderness from
his eyes as he slumbered into dream,
and I said a silent prayer for
the imagined crimes his world
was busy inventing, to condemn
him for being born black
and having the courage to enter
a room, full-throated, screaming:
I am here. I am alive. Hear me.
All of you need the anthem
of my precious life.