from A Refusal to Mourn the Deaths, by Gunfire, of Three Men in Brooklyn
“& still when I sing this awful tale, there is more than a dead black man at the center.”
—Reginald Dwayne Betts
You change the channel, and it’s him again.
Or not him. Him, but younger. Him, but old.
Or him with skullcap. Kufi. Hoodied down.
It’s him at fifteen. Him at forty. Bald,
or dreadlocked. Fat, or chiseled. Six foot three,
or three foot six. Coal black or Ralph Bunche bright.
Again, it’s him. Again, he reached. Today,
behind his back, his waist, beneath the seat,
his socks, to pull an Uzi, morning star,
or Molotov. They said don’t move, they said
get down, they said to walk back toward their car.
He, so to speak, got down… Three to the head,
six to the heart. A mother kneels and prays—
Not peace, but pipe bombs, hands to light the fuse.
John Murillo, excerpt from “A Refusal to Mourn the Deaths, by Gunfire, of Three Men in Brooklyn” from Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry. Copyright © 2020 by John Murillo. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books, fourwaybooks.com. All rights reserved.