This is the second part we have published of a poem, or a series of reflections, on revolt, loss, growth, and care from the Triangle region of North Carolina. You can read the first part here.

Each published piece covers a period of time from March 2020 - 2021.

This is the month of May.


I never watched the video
First, because I couldn’t
then there was no need
The events already on every channel
broken down second by second
a slow motion replay on sports center
Experts read the details
of minutes long torture and murder
of a man
crying out for his mother


I hold my breath
for days and my chest hurts
Less because of what happened
more because of what’s coming
Something is different

There is a rumbling in the cages
Fingernails start to fall off
I don’t think they realize
What it is they’re dealing with


They did it
They really fucking did it
No asking for meetings, no deference to process
No vanguard
no analysis
no consensus
Nothing but righteous audacity

Their hands hold the scars
that spell out their role
And their records marked with their courage
for the paintings they made
with gasoline


News says fifteen thousand people
were in the streets
to start the afternoon
In front of the courthouse, on its steps
Need to hang back from the crowd
I’ve never been good at listening
to speeches
puts me on edge for some reason

We start marching
Hanging back, trying to spot
familiar faces, for some comfort
The heat is unbreakable and I’m not carrying enough water
Nobody is

The march splits around a park
I take a break to walk under the trees
Shade isn’t much respite but it keeps
me on side
more room to move,
to breathe

Put my hands to the dirt
my palms sinking in
beneath the dust and pine needles
Trying to find some center
remind myself that I exist
before my body is lost again

We follow the group that goes right
A friend and I,
couldn’t give an explicit reason
but it’s easier to walk downhill
Cops form a riot line ahead
we keep walking
and then we stop
No shade but a few clouds roll in

We stand at this corner
facing the batons
Vacant lot to our right
graffiti on a lone fenced in wall
And the downtown jail on our
some folks are getting antsy

They let loose
the bottles
I wish they’d throw brick instead
and drink the water
but they’re brave

Sheriffs come out from the garage
Must be where the bottles were headed
Some bold motherfuckers rush up
make it inside
get beat back

The first canister of the night
is thrown into the daytime crowd
and children start to scream
Their parents are confused, some scream
as well
The city police at the corner don’t retreat
but there is red smoke now
Traffic cones make it into the street
We’ve all seen the videos


Acted on instinct
Threw it back
And I scream for help
as skin starts to slough off
But someone is there
Sweet and calm
Bandaged up with a glove
It’ll hurt in the morning
It’ll hurt worse in the morning


It’s at a corner
Confrontations are always at a corner
Never in the middle of the street
where we could drag them
to our side
Make them choke as we’ve choked
cry as we’ve cried
crack them as they’ve cracked us
“Hands up, don’t shoot”
The crowd chants as a threat
more than a plea
Older man, white T-shirt
says fuck that
“Shoot Back”

I smile and he sees, we
have a small embrace before we turn back
to face the shieldwall
comrades for the night


Of what use is the voyeur to the riot
The man who wanders about with camera pointed
As if to shield his eyes from the glare
or halo
of the spectacle before him
The line of the crowd, mob, passerby
is blurred as traits are shared
by inhabitants
of assumed personas

And so where does the voyeur position herself
to herself
for herself
What is to be done for the woman
Incapable of taking action of her own
content to live within a constructed fantasy
even as cataclysmic reality

Why are they here
What do they want

Can they even see us


Glass, breaking all around
reflections shattered into
of pain and of reclamation
of space and of self
Nothing we can do to stop it


Need to sit
legs cramping
haven’t eaten in two days
and out of water
Stranger offers theirs, drink with greed
Smoke flows down the alley
but too tired to move
A crowd gathers, exhausted
Heat has long outlasted the sun
Riot line moves up and we stand
Nobody has enough water
to make it through another

A miracle cuts through the gas
first as light
then as body
Young men in a truck call me over
Get it out of the bed, fast
No fewer than a hundred cases
of fresh water
We pull it into the street
While cops pull up in a cart
Truck speeds off
Hope they made it home
We have water
We can fight a little longer


Crowd is far away now, maybe gone entirely
I’m alone, trying to leave
I look for stars but my eyes
are so burned, everything is a smudge
Stumble towards where I parked
A single city cop
directing traffic
at two in the morning
Looks at me
says nothing but knows
and we ignore each other
too tired to worry about the other


At home I hear they took a highway
Guess that’s what I get for
going right at the park, choosing downhill

Missed them taking a highway
Could’ve used the exercise

Photo by Jakob Rosen on Unsplash.

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