Unworthy of a Longer Life

[Content warning: violence, state violence, police killings of Black women]

Deborah Danner. Say her name.

We’ve been here before —
shots that kill rather than wound.
We are here again and again.
The first choice is always to destroy.

Shots that kill rather than wound —
Deborah Danner could be alive today.
Why is the first choice always to destroy?
Why can’t we live?

Deborah Danner could be alive today.
Mental illness isn’t a capital crime.
Why can’t we live?
Deborah Danner, like Eleanor Bumpurs, dead.

Mental illness isn’t a capital crime —
unless you’re Black?
Deborah Danner, like Eleanor Bumpurs, shot dead —
deemed unworthy of a longer life.

When you’re Black,
the slightest infraction becomes a killing crime.
You’re deemed unworthy of a longer life.
You’re shot to kill, not to wound.

The slightest infraction becomes a killing crime.
Deborah Danner was unruly. Now she’s dead.
Shot to kill, not to wound.
While white active shooters are brought in alive.

Deborah Danner was unruly. Now she’s dead.
She had a bat, the cop had a gun.
White active shooters are brought in alive again and again.
What explains the difference if not race?

Danner had a bat, the cop had a gun.
Now she’s dead. She needed care, but now she’s dead.
What explains the outcome if not race?
The first choice is always to destroy.

Why can’t we live?


Pantoum — A poem of four-line stanzas in which the second and fourth lines of each stanza become the first and third lines of the next stanza. The final line can be a repeat of the first line of the poem.

Say Her Name — A movement calling attention to police violence against Black women, girls and femmes. Fill the void. Lift your voice. Say her name.


It’s National Poetry Month! Every April for almost the full life of this blog, I have taken on the challenge of writing a poem a day. A year or so in, I upped the ante ton the challenge and decided to choose a specific poetry form each year and write that form for the month — 30 tanka, 30 rhyme royals, etc. It’s been a hard slog most years, as I struggle mightily with writing poetry, with feeling “allowed” to try writing poetry. So why make it harder by adding onto the base 30/30 challenge? Well, that’s kind of who I am, isn’t it? I continue.

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Flyaway Chaff on the Wind

[Content warning: violence, state violence, police killings of Black women]

Sheneque Proctor. Say her name.

It’s a natural thing,
a parent wanting their baby to come home,
a parent wanting their baby safe from harm.
That need, that desire, powerful.

A mother wanted her baby to come home.
Instead, had to find her in a police station.
The need, the desire to find her child so powerful.
But, instead of coming home, her baby died.

A mother tried to find her baby in a police station.
Sheneque Proctor was only 18.
Instead of going home with her mother, Sheneque Proctor died.
Instead of care, this baby died (alone?) in a police cell.

Sheneque Proctor was only 18. Only 18.
The police said she should have been fine.
Instead, she died (alone?) in a police cell.
Another too-young life lost.

The police said she should have been fine,
but they refused to release video of Sheneque’s time in that cell.
Another too-young life lost,
another police department shrugging it off, hiding information.

Police refused to release video of Sheneque’s time in that cell —
a refusal that reeks of knowledge, of culpability.
They shrug off Sheneque’s death, hide vital information
as if she is nothing more than chaff on the wind.

The refusal screams knowledge, culpability.
Sheneque’s baby son is motherless, she is gone,
flyaway chaff on the wind.
How can she be thrown away so casually?

Sheneque’s baby, motherless. She is gone.
Her son will never know his mother,
casually thrown away.
The clock hands click down toward zero.

It’s an unnatural thing.


Pantoum — A poem of four-line stanzas in which the second and fourth lines of each stanza become the first and third lines of the next stanza. The final line can be a repeat of the first line of the poem.

Say Her Name — A movement calling attention to police violence against Black women, girls and femmes. Fill the void. Lift your voice. Say her name.


It’s National Poetry Month! Every April for almost the full life of this blog, I have taken on the challenge of writing a poem a day. A year or so in, I upped the ante ton the challenge and decided to choose a specific poetry form each year and write that form for the month — 30 tanka, 30 rhyme royals, etc. It’s been a hard slog most years, as I struggle mightily with writing poetry, with feeling “allowed” to try writing poetry. So why make it harder by adding onto the base 30/30 challenge? Well, that’s kind of who I am, isn’t it? I continue.

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Outsourcing

[Content warning: violence, state violence, police killings of Black women]

Kayla Moore. Say her name.

Why are police ever called for mental health checks?
Why do we think the police can do anything helpful —
they aren’t healthcare professionals.
It’s like calling a chef when I need a plumber.

Why do we think the police and do anything helpful —
mental illness isn’t a law enforcement issue.
It’s like calling a chef when I need a plumber.
using a hammer when I need a Q-tip.

Mental illness isn’t a law enforcement issue.
Kayla Moore needed help, needed care,
but, like using a hammer when I need a Q-tip,
we’ve outsourced healthcare to the police.

Kayla Moore a trans woman, needed help, care.
She didn’t need to be misgendered then suffocated by the cops,
but we’ve outsourced healthcare to the police,
picking up the hammer instead of the Q-tip.

Kayla was misgendered, insulted, suffocated —
in what world does that sound like help, like care?
We took up the bludgeon instead of the Q-tip,
and got exactly the result we could have expected.

In what world does violent murder sound like help?
It’s the world we made Kayla Moore live and die in.
Exactly the result we could have expected,
this world — our world — this hell we endorse daily.

This is the world we made Kayla Moore live and die in.
She deserved better than us, better from us.
Better than this hell we endorse daily.
better than eight officers suffocating her to death.

This world, where violent murder is substituted for care.


Pantoum — A poem of four-line stanzas in which the second and fourth lines of each stanza become the first and third lines of the next stanza. The final line can be a repeat of the first line of the poem.

Say Her Name — A movement calling attention to police violence against Black women, girls and femmes. Fill the void. Lift your voice. Say her name.


It’s National Poetry Month! Every April for almost the full life of this blog, I have taken on the challenge of writing a poem a day. A year or so in, I upped the ante ton the challenge and decided to choose a specific poetry form each year and write that form for the month — 30 tanka, 30 rhyme royals, etc. It’s been a hard slog most years, as I struggle mightily with writing poetry, with feeling “allowed” to try writing poetry. So why make it harder by adding onto the base 30/30 challenge? Well, that’s kind of who I am, isn’t it? I continue.

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A Threat so Great

[Content warning: violence, state violence, police killings of Black women]

Alexia Christian. Say her name.

Alexia Christian was killed at 26,
handcuffed in the back of a police car.
But somehow produced a gun and fired,
somehow posed a threat that required her death.

Handcuffed in the back of a police car,
Alexia was clearly an uncontainable force,
a threat so great nothing but her death would do.

Alexia was clearly an uncontainable force.
Her arresting officers saw no other options.
A threat so great nothing but her death would do,
and so they killed her.

The arresting officers saw no other option but murder.
Those officers, both Black men, could only imagine her death
and so they killed her.
And so they killed her.

Those two Black policemen only envisioned her death.
Not a wounding, not a stun, only death,
and so they killed her.
One more count on the slide to zero.

Not a wounding, not a stun, only death.
Two Black men killed a Black woman.
One more count on the slide to zero.
Don’t they know? Their numbers are in the count, too.

Two Black men killed a Black woman.
Every one of us deserves better, deserves to live.
Don’t they know their numbers are in the count, too?
Don’t they know?

Every one of us deserves to live.
“Protect and serve” should include us all.
Don’t they know?
Don’t they know?


Pantoum — A poem of four-line stanzas in which the second and fourth lines of each stanza become the first and third lines of the next stanza. The final line can be a repeat of the first line of the poem.

Say Her Name — A movement calling attention to police violence against Black women, girls and femmes. Fill the void. Lift your voice. Say her name.


It’s National Poetry Month! Every April for almost the full life of this blog, I have taken on the challenge of writing a poem a day. A year or so in, I upped the ante ton the challenge and decided to choose a specific poetry form each year and write that form for the month — 30 tanka, 30 rhyme royals, etc. It’s been a hard slog most years, as I struggle mightily with writing poetry, with feeling “allowed” to try writing poetry. So why make it harder by adding onto the base 30/30 challenge? Well, that’s kind of who I am, isn’t it? I continue.

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How Much We Are Hated

[Content warning: violence, state violence, police killings of Black women]

Malissa William. Say her name.

One hundred thirty-seven shots.
That’s how much we are hated.
That’s how little our lives are valued.
One hundred thirty-seven shots.

That’s how much we are hated.
Malissa Williams was just collateral damage.
One hundred thirty-seven shots.
No one cared what happened to her.

Malissa Williams was collateral damage,
passenger in a chased car.
None of those thirteen cops cared what happened to her.
All they wanted was to shoot every one of their bullets.

A passenger in a chased car.
No questions asked, only guns fired.
All the cops wanted was to shoot every last bullet,
to kill Malissa and Timothy as dead as dead could be.

No questions asked, only shots fired.
One hundred thirty-seven shots
to kill two homeless people as dead as dead could be.
Because why not? Who would care?

One hundred thirty-seven shots.
ensuring the steady count backward to zero.
Because who would care? Who would care?
Malissa was the bonus kill, the two-for-one.

Thirteen cops added to that count back to zero.
Forty-nine shots from Michael Brelo alone.
Malissa was his bonus, his two-for-one.
Standing on the hood of their car, firing and firing and firing.

Forty-nine shots fired by Michael Brelo.
How many times do you need to kill the same two people?
Standing on the hood of their car, firing and firing and firing.
This is how much we are hated.

One hundred thirty-seven shots.


Pantoum — A poem of four-line stanzas in which the second and fourth lines of each stanza become the first and third lines of the next stanza. The final line can be a repeat of the first line of the poem.

Say Her Name — A movement calling attention to police violence against Black women, girls and femmes. Fill the void. Lift your voice. Say her name.


It’s National Poetry Month! Every April for almost the full life of this blog, I have taken on the challenge of writing a poem a day. A year or so in, I upped the ante ton the challenge and decided to choose a specific poetry form each year and write that form for the month — 30 tanka, 30 rhyme royals, etc. It’s been a hard slog most years, as I struggle mightily with writing poetry, with feeling “allowed” to try writing poetry. So why make it harder by adding onto the base 30/30 challenge? Well, that’s kind of who I am, isn’t it? I continue.

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