GF 1619-2020

G.F. 1619-2020
by M. L. Graham

Ask
and ask
and then ask
why we can't breathe
why we can't see each other
in 'we'
at least not officially
why whenever we speak of history
it's dotted with caveats
inclusive I's
exclusive we's
narrating our story
while we can't breathe
ask why
grown men holler momma
eighteen months after she's passed
eight minutes before we do, too
which we know thanks to a seventeen
year old --
or so we're told
or so we're shown.
ask why
slave patrols kept their colors
their vicious dogs
their strikes like bloodhounds
unerringly cracking black spines
black kidneys
black arteries
until we can't breathe
Who's in control of the city?
Why we riot whenever we bleed?
Why we get asked to trust
those who've robbed our best,
robbed our breath?
Why black anyways,
isn't that the mark of a slave?
why not call me by my name?
There's nothing black about me
that wasn't left by brutality,
boots, batons, knees,
the hearts of those who refuse to hear my pleas.
ask, and ask why
ask until you hear your voice in
every preacher's cries
ululations, protestations,
hymns
parched and inflected
pitched and hoarse,
ask again
ask why you think riots
are uncalled for
when injustice is ringing
when the police who cleared the
streets
were still writing
false reports in our names
signed by the silent
coauthored by the medic
who backed our killer's tale
before they thought we knew.
I don't want your stores
or their windows
your streets strewn with broken glass
your loot,
we want to breathe,
like Eric Garner, Rodney King,
Philando Castile, Freddy,
Tamir, George, Brianna,
You & Me
Ask why
I had to write this
for 'We the People'
it's not for a cause
it's because 'it' happened again
and again
and again
and I'm not sure what 'we'
means anymore
they want prison for the perps
I want justice for all
they want harsher charges
I want a sweeter liberty
we can't have both
but we can have neither
ask why it seems that's what
we've got.
Ask why you think
peaceful protests are best
we had those three years ago,
at Trump's inauguration
at his appointment of Gorsich,
at the Kavanaugh hearings,
the Mueller findings
the Impeachment proceedings,
and yet Manafort is free,
as is Stone,
Sheriff Arapaio,
Giuliani & Co.,
and of course Trump is
still president
the glory of peaceful protests!
like flowers at a cancelled wedding,
like Floyd's nonresistence.
"Just be calm," he whispered
"I can't breathe," he replied
and peaceful crowds were dispersed
helicopters hovered
tear gas bursting in air
proof through the night
that they don't care.
Burn, New York!
Burn, Baltimore!
Burn, Louisville!
Burn, L.A.!
Burn, Seattle, Minneapolis, St Louis,
Houston, Oakland, Miami,
Burn! Burn! Burn --
with the flame of indignation,
the heat of reprehension,
the fire of compassion,
light up the skyline
with refrains
from Malcolm, Huey,
Angela and Martin
let your silhouettes flicker
to the tune of unrequited memorials
that ask why
through dead black throats
ask why
we can't keep our bowels from releasing
ask why
the EMT can't find our pulse
ask why
when your soul died you took my body
with it
ask why
our eyelids can't lift so we can
stare into the camera,
past the little girl holding it,
into your living room
He killed us!
His stare is still here,
we cannot convict him
he is us
ask why
convicting him is not suicide for you,
for all of you who didn't ask why
just repeated the lies
just retweeted the myths
covered the blows with words
hid the strangle holds behind
other breaking news,
concealed your broken face
behind 'my' facts
ask why
like you've never asked before
so you'll never have to ask again
ask
"Why can't you get in the car, George?"
and ask
"Why won't you be still, George?"
then ask again
"Momma!"
Why can't we breathe

This poem was sent to me to publish by my friend and penpal of 4 years who is currently imprisoned. I am happy to have a space to share with a Black poet, and am honored to call Mr. Graham my friend. Our letters have been a constant source of inspiration, intellectual exchange, and hope over the years. I would say a lot more, in less formal terms, about this poet and our friendship, but for his life being at the mercy of the ever watchful prison.

Syrian artists Aziz Asmar and Anis Hamdoun finish a mural depicting George Floyd in the town of Binnish in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province on June 1, 2020. (Photo by OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP via Getty Images)

2 thoughts on “GF 1619-2020

  1. carolynpeggyahoocom says:

    Wowser Bowser! Thank you so much for sharing. Will forward on to many others.Lyn

    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

    Like

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