February 23, 2020

Image of a man's head and shoulders, overlaid with pine trees.

(for Ahmaud Arbery)

 

The night I understood what it means to be

Black, a line of bats perched on my roof,

owls fell into my room like rain.

 

In the day, a 25-year-old boy

in a distant land made his chest a shelter

for homeless bullets while jogging

 

(And when your body becomes a nest

for flying bullets, your ghost relocates

into the petal of a roadside flower.)

 

When you’re away from home

your body is a highway a truck

of grief can pass through at any time.

 

Anywhere you sit, you lap insurgency.

A parasite eats into your

sense of smell so you do not know

 

that you stink of gunpowder,

that you are a concierge of terror, that you follow

a history of explosion down its memory lane.

 

And to survive as a Black away from home

is to allow a city of folly grow on your skin,

is to say your father’s name lacks poesy,

 

is to pay double to use a public toilet.

The night I understood what it means to be

Black, I looked in the mirror and saw nothing.