Samaria Rice, Mother of Tamir
Can't live here. Can't live upright now. Just here,
he was. Too quiet, nothing bangs the screen door
or needs new shoes, nothing eats my cooking
or does homework at the kitchen table.
The sky closing, my daughter's mind collapsing
like her baby brother on that grass. Can't live
across the street from that gory field, can't look out
of windows just like the windows some idiot
watched Tamir play from, called in the hit. Can't bury
my son while they bury his case, bury justice
in loopholes and months of red tape. Can't bury the cop,
though I have in my mind many times. Can't deal
with walls, doors. Floors that are too damn clean
of 12-year-old sneaker prints. Can't deal with over there
and this never being over. The ground howls where he fell,
beckons me as his infant cries once did. Footage of his falling
loops on and on. Tamir, Walter Scott, Eric Garner,
Aiyana Stanley-Jones—didn't know murder could look like
wrestling, snuffing bugs or taking out the trash. Can't live
yards from the chalk outline near hopscotch grids.
My ears can't hold the cheery chirping of birds as if
nothing happened. Can't do it! Lord help me, my child
and mind shot. Always gasping, begging for breath.
Two-second discharge, bullet-fast oblivion. Police car
hearse-black. Why is my son not worth pause,
Miranda rights or any other protocol, a bad cop's day
in court? Can't have coffee across from the yawning
green mouth swilling his blood or boil eggs aside
that open, airy coffin. Broken hearts bound by yellow tape.
Done living at this address of can't, of never again,
of not sorry for our loss. Forward feels pointless;
let me live the whole truth now
that my family has been shattered. My head
on this homeless shelter pillow is honest—
there's no safe haven I could ever own.
Overheard on Bedford Avenue
You deliver a sermon in the street.
27 degrees, hollering at everyone
and no one about workers’ rights.
If you worked a first shift, you would be winding
down, 10 minutes until clocking out. If.
Reciting from a crumpled sheet,
your nose runs but you carry on as if
this doesn’t matter, just like it doesn’t matter
if only the manholes and the rats teeming
below hear your twilight tirade.
The plastic bags rustle in the trash cans
and the filthy snow knows
what those hours cost you, stealing
far more than what they provided.
I see your pink, swollen face. I see
a dad dismissed after 36 ripe years
without fruit for his silver days.
You wade into streams of cars proselytizing,
brave the wind’s whips and lashes, stop
just short of squealing.
Already ran over, look at your house
of bones and skin, blown. The wolves
When life scuffs and finally scars the eyes
they become turtles—withdraw inside themselves,
dive inside private marshes, dragging under
the once-girl they belong to, the dewy woman
who rolled them in pleasure, then cried her children
here, blinking back. They retreat into hardness,
she squints at every wound. After all, why this cruel
gauze now? Over 66 years of scenery, fate's
scattershot survived thus far—have they seen enough,
growing armor that only a highly-skilled violence
can remove? She goes under, begs the rest—
tissue, organs and membrane to please hold on,
still eager to behold (until that final haze)
some sliver of disheveled beauty. The eyes
of her dreams carapace, zig-zag and buzz trapped
inside latched windows. There is no surgery for this.
A moment dreaded
for years turns out to be
pedestrian—something that once flew
grounded. On a lit Manhattan
corner, there's a nip in the late April wind—
last season's long, graceless goodbye
and both of us wrapped up in it.
You lean against the storefront
a strange, ghosted beauty,
my lovely scald branding
someone else's skin. Split-second
reaction, I walk by, then walk back
a few steps just to be sure
and to let you witness me
seeing you in context, finally—
bright promise horizoned, swoon
without waiting arms, my heart's
swan dive into an empty pool.
I wave and mean it both ways.
The fool in me still moths to your flame,
but the fresh silver in my hair
streaks past the nightclub throbbing
with music and friends we love
where I know you are going, steers
ruby-canvased, Hermes-swift feet
around one corner, then another.