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.