Too Young to Know

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

Aiyana Stanley-Jones. Say her name.

So many excuses made:
she had a knife, she kept driving, she ran …
none of these excuses explaining
how every move we make is a capital offense.

She had a knife, she kept driving, she ran …
and police killed her, killed all of us.
Every move we make is a capital offense,
every move we make begs for our death.

And police kill us, keep killing us
and blaming us for our lost lives
as if every move we make begs for our death.
This story is so common, so known.

We are blamed for our lost lives,
but what about Aiyana Stanley-Jones?
Her story isn’t so common, and yet we know —
we know the ending because it’s every ending.

What can we say about Aiyana Stanley-Jones?
A baby, only seven, asleep in her nana’s arms
we know the ending because it’s every ending.
Was a sleeping baby begging for her own death, too?

A baby, only seven, asleep in her nana’s arms.
No way to justify this murder.
Was a sleeping baby begging for her own death?
Did she paint a target on her delicate neck?

No way to justify this murder,
no way to tell us Aiyana was no angel.
Did she paint the target on her delicate neck,
or just have the audacity to think she was safe at home?

There was no way to tell us Aiyana was no angel
who would believe such ugliness?
She had the audacity to think herself safe at home
the audacity to think she should live to see eight.

Who would believe anything so ugly
as the murder of this dimple-smiled angel
who thought she would live to see eight
who thought she would live?

The killing of this dimple-smiled angel
is no worse than all the other killings, is worse than all.
She thought she would live, could live, should live.
Too young to know our every move is a capital offense.

No worse than other killings, so much worse than all other killings.
A sleeping child should be safe in her home.
But not if our every move is a capital offense,
not when the fact of our lives is criminal.

We know the ending because it’s every ending.
This story is so common.


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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Keep Our Hearts Drumming

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

Yvette Smith. Say her name.

There’s nothing we can do,
nothing Black folks can ever do
to save our own lives,
to keep police fingers off triggers.

Nothing Black folks can ever do
will give our lives value in our killers’ eyes,
keep police fingers off triggers,
keep our blood in our bodies, our hearts drumming.

The value of our lives in our killers’ eyes
is nil — the ever-onward count down to zero.
The blood in our bodies, our drumming hearts
mean exactly nothing.

The ever-onward count down to zero
added Yvette Smith to the roll call.
That she did as they asked meant exactly nothing.
They took Yvette Smith because they could.

Yvette Smith was added to the roll call.
One more Black woman, one more life.
They killed because they could,
because when has the murder of a Black woman mattered?

One more Black woman, one more life.
A mother of two, a survivor, a full, vibrant being.
When has the murder of a Black woman mattered?
The weight we carry gives us no weight.

A mother two, a survivor, a full, vibrant being.
Yvette Smith, the simple, glorious fact of her,
but the weight of her, of divinity, gave her no weight.
She was taken. She was taken. Taken.

Yvette Smith, the simple glorious fact of her —
nothing we Black folks ever do saves our own lives.
She was taken. She was taken. Taken.
Our rage and grief remain, expand, consume.

Nothing we Black folks ever do saves our own lives.
There are no protections from the protectors.
Our rage and grief remain, expand, consume,
our deaths compound.

Our deaths compound.


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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Daring to Live as Herself

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

Mya Hall. Say her name.

When a trans woman is murdered
if the media deigns to acknowledge her death
the attention is fleeting, disappearing
as if her life wasn’t worth noting.

If the media deigns to acknowledge her death
she is misgendered or misnamed, dismissed
as if her life wasn’t worth noting.
When a trans woman is murdered by the police

She is misgendered, and misnamed, dismissed,
and she is, of course, criminalized.
When a trans woman is murdered by the police,
even her clothes are made to seem suspect, responsible.

Mya Hall was criminalized,
shamed for daring to live as herself,
even her clothes were made to seem suspect, responsible.
All to distract from the basic fact: she was murdered by police.

Shamed for daring to live as herself,
the media rushed to assure us Hall was no angel,
to distract from the basic fact: she was murdered by the police.
Look away! Her death was her own fault! Look away! 

The media rushed to assure that Hall was no angel —
code for “she got what she deserved,” and “unimportant.”
Look away! Her death was her own fault! Look away!
Move along. Nothing to see here.

“She got what she deserved.” “Unimportant.”
That was all we had to offer Mya Hall.
Move along. Nothing to see here.
All the lies and insults obscuring Mya from view.

That was all we had to offer.
Mya, we owed you so much more.
More than lies and insults, more than violence,
more than erasure and blame.

We owed you. We owe you. And we will remember. We say your name.


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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All for Love

Taking a pause in the sadness for a love poem. It’s April 9th, that means it’s my niece’s birthday … and that means my daily poem is for my best-beloved goddaughter. I will try to find the stamina to write two #SayHerName Pantoum tomorrow, but today is all for love.

Reciprocity

Twenty years of my heart expanding.
Twenty years of full, unabashed devotion.
This is what unconditional love looks like.
She’s been my whole heart from her first breath.

Twenty years of full, unabashed devotion.
My “auntieness,” quiet, abiding, fierce.
She’s been my whole heart from her first breath,
my heart a protective shield around her.

My “auntieness,” quiet, abiding, fierce,
a flower in perpetual bloom.
My heart a protective shield around her,
her love is crown and mantle, pride and respect.

A flower in perpetual bloom,
she reveals the impact rippling out from me.
I wear her love like a crown,
and see myself clearly through her eyes.

She reveals the impact rippling out from me,
and I am visible, heard, whole.
I see myself so clearly through her eyes.
This is her forever gift.

I am visible, heard, whole.
This is unconditional love — her forever gift.


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.


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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It’s Slice of Life Tuesday at Two Writing Teachers! Click through to see what the other slicers are up to this cold spring Tuesday!

original-slicer-girlgriot

The Relentless Countdown to Zero

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

Charleena Lyles. Say her name.

Once again, bringing guns to a knife fight —
we can’t call police for help and live.
Charleena Lyles, her babies around her
feared a burglar, called her killers for help.

Protect and serve? We can’t call police and live
when they use us for target practice.
Charleena feared a thief, called her killers for help.
Pregnant, her children beside her, where was the threat?

Police use our bodies for target practice.
In their eyes, we are shooting gallery ducks.
Pregnant, her children beside her, where was the threat?
Charleena, you deserved so much more.

We are shooting gallery ducks,
our lives floating away like chaff in the wind.
Charleena, you deserved so much more.
Your potential, anger, hope and laughter, all your joys.

Our lives, flyaway chaff on the wind.
Charleena Lyles, one whole, brown body.
Your potential, anger, hope and laughter, all your joys.
Charleena, the wind cries, carrying your name.

The relentless countdown to zero.


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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Zero Is Reachable

Last night I fell asleep. When I woke up, my computer had shut itself down during my inactivity, so I put it away and went to bed, figuring I had surely hit “publish” on this post. Alas. No. So here is my April 7th post a day late.

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

Kathryn Johnston. Say her name.

I know they’re counting backward to zero,
this relentless count that never stops.
Blame Kathryn Johnston for her warning shot, but know:
gun or no, she never had a chance.

This relentless countdown never stops.
These killers know zero is reachable.
Gun or no, Kathryn Johnston had no chance.
Thirty-nine shots. She was 92.

These killers know zero is reachable.
It takes hard work and determination.
Thirty-nine shots. She was 92.
Thirty-nine shots. She was 92.

It takes hard work and determination
to criminalize our grandmothers.
Thirty-nine shots. She was 92.
This is a solvable equation.

Criminalizing our grandmothers
our daughter, our sisters, every Black woman.
This is a solvable equation.
America’s easiest math problem.

Our daughters, our sisters, every Black woman.
Kathryn, Rekia, Tarika, Eleanor.
America’s easiest math problem. Easy. Uncomplicated.
Every one of us deserves to live.

Thirty-nine shots. She was 92.


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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Not Human Enough

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

Tarika Wilson. Say her name.

Tarika’s baby son wasn’t killed —
the only good in this ugly story.
Her baby lost fingers but kept his life.
A life he now lives without his mother.

The only good in this ugly story,
her pretty baby survives, he still lives.
A life he will know without his mother.
Tarika, shot and killed where she stood.

Her pretty baby survives, lives,
that survival a lucky happenstance.
Tarika, shot and killed where she stood
not human enough to be seen and spared.

Survival just luck, a happenstance.
Tarika tried to protect her babies
but wasn’t human enough to be spared
not worthy of consideration.

Tarika tried to protect her babies,
and that loving act was criminalized
not worthy of consideration,
the simple gift of time to say, “Don’t shoot!”

Her loving act was criminalized
still, her children survived.
She gave them the gift of time, her time, her life
Six children, carrying her memory.

The children survived. All survived.
The only good in this ugly story.
Six children, carrying her memory.
Tarika Wilson. Say her name.


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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