When We Get Ready

He slammed his backpack on the wooden table, rattling the two glasses of water sitting next to the plates of half eaten meatloaf and mashed potatoes. “And where do you think you’re going?” Evette asked her son, watching as he shoved two rolled poster boards into the small slit of his bag. “Momma, I’ve had enough.” Marcus stated, attaching one loop of his facemask to his left ear. He shuffled his backpack on his back and muttered to himself.
“Cellphone?” He patted his pockets. Upon feeling its shape, he confirmed to himself, “check.” He continued, verifying each object.
“Posters, check, mask, check, gloves, check, first aid kit, check, water, check, milk, check.”
“Milk??” his mothered asked aloud, still paused at the table, her arms crossed on her chest and head tilted in curiosity. “What in the world do you need milk for?”
“For the mace, they always have–.”
Before Marcus could finish the sentence, Evette had already grabbed him by the backpack and pulled him down onto the empty wooden chair at the table.
“Are you really ready to go the protest?”
At some point she had made her way to the front of him. Her stature was small but her attitude enormously serious. She didn’t play any games, and Marcus knew this question was more than what she was asking on the surface. What she was really asking was if Marcus was ready to walk into the face of racism. She was asking if Marcus was ready to take the unasked-for target from his back and place it voluntarily on his chest. She had asked if he were ready to understand that no longer accepting historical injustice could mean a permanent record, criminal association, disfigurement, or even death. Was he ready to admit down the barrel of a gun that he was black, and pray that he be met with solidarity instead of bullets, or a knee to the neck? Ready was a loaded word; nothing simple.
“Momma,” Marcus started, meeting his mothers tear filled eyes, “I have never been ready for this. I don’t think any of us were ever really ready for this…but all I’ve got left is anger. Anger with no justice and no outlet. You deserve justice.” He stood up and cradled his mother, her head reaching just under his chin. “We ALL deserve justice.”
Evette wrapped her arms around the tall man, remembering when he reached only her knee. She took a deep breath and peered up at him. His face showed determination, and that worried her. She knew his feelings, and that scared her. The anger he carried is the kind she carried ever since she realized her skin color made her an enemy to many.  She let her arms fall away from him and walked towards the dishes on the table.
“Well,” she started, as she cleared dinner, and brought it into the kitchen, “I hope you have enough water bottles for two people.”
“Two??” Marcus shouted upwards towards his mother, who had quickly made her way upstairs from the kitchen. He could hear her shuffling around above his head. “What do you mean two?”
Evette flew down the stairs dawning a black fist across her chest, face mask dangling around her wrist, and black sneakers tied in a neat bow on her feet. “Son,” she said quickly packing a bag of her own, “this is OUR fight.” She slid the two straps across her shoulder and walked, head high, towards the front door. Marcus followed, grabbed his mothers’ hand, and together they strode into the streets chanting.
“BLACK LIVES MATTER!”

Flee

I had to take off running ’cause he came right for my light
the flame inside my chest, the hope I cling onto at night
he wore me down with words until my walls lowered to earth
he shattered all the windows of my fortress, made from birth
he filled my halls and attic with the loudest sound of doubt
and painted “can’t” and “won’t” along the walls, from in to out
I had to take off running cause he came right for my light
the ache that keeps me going when I want to throw the fight

Exposed

My secrets kept me warm,
worn tightly knit across my chest and weaved
down from my arms to my feet
words that I’d never speak
And there you were
honey eyes
begging to understand how I am
to tear down my cloak
and replace it with your arms

The fire in your chest amplified
as I slowly stripped
tongue hot
goosebumps perched along my arms
the words came accompanied with tears
mine
and yours
And when my mouth snapped shut
the words faded away

There I sat
nude, exposed
Those honey eyes casting flames
against my pale, cold skin
sparking the heat once again

Common Modifications

Words fly past your ears
to the empty space behind
while your eyes
intend to convince my heart
that it cannot possibly be  how I say, as I say
instead
that I remain a lie
everything about me, for me,
of me
a treacherous untruth concocted to drive you into your personal hell
and all I can do is sink further into myself
and quiet my voice
as it will otherwise go unheard
so
I bury my feelings, my thoughts, and beliefs
until they can no longer breathe or exist
and I become everything you want
to ensure your smile stays
and the smile that I plaster across my face
will cover my tragedy

 

Traffic Stop

In a world of plenty water
Johnny’s mouth was arid, deathly so
for seeing how they hit his mother
made the raging red flames grow
the time got stuck in muddy moments
progress null, eyes peeled to watch
fist tightly curled, his arm went flying
towards the overzealous cop
From his back, the pain went shooting
down his spine and through his feet
Johnny’s mother started screaming
as  he fell into deep sleep
cuffed and crying, soulless, empty
Johnny’s mother tried to fight
the urge to blame this on herself
for not repairing her tail light

Lessons

It was innocent
The way I chose my favorite dress
That flowed to my knees
A soft pink
I’d never think of the time
I’d outgrow it
Because, to a kid
The future exists only for grownups
It takes too long to grow up
And the impatience that
Escaped in my dreams
A place of my own
the different faces in the spaces
I’d see across the globe
It was innocent
So
Dress on, bag on my shoulders
My adventure awaited
In the backyard
Not far, close enough for comfort
And safety
Because that existed
But it gets twisted
When somehow, from somewhere
This,
Some,
He,

Had the nerve and the audacity
To steal from me
My innocence and clarity
peace and joy
Drained from my soul as quickly as the tears
Ran down my cheeks
His rugged embrace from behind my back was taut
And the lesson was taught to never turn my back to the open world
Because my screams will not be heard
As the unknown stabs itself into my memory
And yeah, I will grow up in that future I wasn’t sure existed
Head still twisted, but heart secure
Cause one thing for sure is
I am stronger than your cowardice
I am better than your weakness
I am worth more than you made me feel
And with all my will
I am reclaiming my time
My growth is real
I am ready
With my new favorite dress
Lace that flows down to the knees
A soft pink
Bag on my shoulders
My adventure awaits

I’ll Stay Until I Can’t

Can I stay
and lose my mind in everything that you are
because it doesn’t take much

At some point you’ll feel it
too, the electricity
lighting up my heart so bright

But it’ll be the end of me
the day you realize your current
wasn’t permanent

Just a temporary jolt
to make you realize that what you really need
what you really want

isn’t me.

One Hundred Degrees of Heartache

I don’t think I’ll survive here

Not with this kind of weather

Sweltering heat spread

thin like jam across my cheeks

Burnt pink

A little aloe goes a long way

but won’t take the flames from

your words, which are just as hot

Salty showers soak my forehead creases

While my furrowed brow struggles

to provide shade and understanding

to my confusion

Between you and me, I’ll be gone

by tomorrow

Like the breeze, I’ll blow through

Just enough to say I was here,

But not worth chasing

Tattle Tell

I had to say it

I was bursting, my tongue thirsting

to touch palate

to form sounds and make words

Even though she warned me not too

My lips tingled, my adrenaline soared

And then he said it again

That word we’re not supposed to say

I felt my hands form rivers

Waterfalls pounded down my temples

Holding it all in

My throat ached

It hurt so bad with all those words pushing to escape

They banged against my vocal chords so hard that I needed

a big gulp of air

and when my lips peeled back

it all came out.

“MAAA, KENNY SAID “DAMN” AGAIN!’

Oops.