After the photograph (Jen Hart persona)

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

after Ai

Any tiny sliver of hope
these kids had
at a normal life is gone
gone going gone. At first,
there was love.
The throngs hungry and
for a piece of something
good and not so hateful,
like a Black kid
in a white cop’s arms.
It was supposed to be
beautiful but now those
pieces rot
and the hateful lot
rises to the top
(Like they always do)
and it won’t stop
until they destroy us. They were
made in Bible-thumping back
alleyways They were made to prey on
bred to hate our kind.
No way we can stay.
They will find us if we do.
Knew this shit was bad
news, too good to be true.
Why did he have to cry?
He can’t help being
built that way, I know that
the poor thing’s been
through so much. Always been
so sensitive and I usually love
him for it but this embrace
erased our family’s safety –
Just yesterday
as I was about to put
out the garbage,
from the screen door
I saw a red-haired man
with a hunter's jacket on
bathed in camouflage
standing by our mailbox.
We locked eyes
he opened his mouth to
smile I thought I saw fangs
He raised up his
hand to peace sign
at me
I thought I heard him
laugh and I slammed the
door closed. Pulled the
as I peeked from the perimeter
of the window til
he left,
but too many minutes
for my comfort. There
are too many eyes.
Too many plotting our demise.
Again. What have we got
ourselves into?
The photograph now
steals my nights away
from me.
Toss and turn and burn up in fever sweats.
Round              smooth
pebbles  are   dropped
one  by  one  down my
I struggle to not choke. Sarah is dead
asleep. Sometimes I can’t
stand her peace (I hate to say it
but it’s true).
She tells me I’m
overreacting but she’s
not the one
with this burden she’s not the one
who is here day in day out
all she does is weigh in and pout.
She doesn’t care an ounce
about the pebbles drowning
from the inside out
or the man with the fangs
standing by our mailbox
or the death threats we
receive all this grief
from a goddamned photograph I swear that photograph
will be our fucking epitaphs
and I love Devonte but I
that part of him too (I hate to say it but it’s true).
I don’t want to uproot them
so   soon   again   but  until
then   they   need   to   stay
where I can guide them and hide
them til some of this blows over
and it feels like it never will
but for now no more rallies or festivals or valleys or parks or forests
not now maybe not forever.
These kids are never going to have a normal life.
The pebbles are keeping me from
breathing I’ve got to get up now
got to get up got to spit them out but my lips are glued
shut melting together like a marshmallow
I’m choking suffocating cannot stay here we have to
go I hate to say it but it’s true. I know what is best for
With my hand I’m able to rip
my mouth open blood seeping then spilling then pouring from my cracked lips
I’m able to spit up all the rocks
they come shooting and crashing to the floor
then I see them clicking together
like little black magnets to form bodies and the bodies are my children’s bodies growing hands to
choke me with until I can no longer breathe.
The fright of night
swallows me up
into its cavern, where I finally rest a while.