Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2018  Vol. 17 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
 print preview

  after an untitled sketch by Basquiat

To your right, a Crayola-yellow square.
Inside this, a tiny brown car.
Outside the square are a few distressed longitudinal lines,
Red and black.
Below the square is the word, “poli—

A square of yellow hallway light, just warm and large and fleeting enough for the jury to pretend with them. Trick black. Black trick. Eenie, meeny, miney, no. Naw, man. Naw, man, GET UP. GETCHO ASS UP! !#$%.......!#$%.......!# THIS IS A TEST OF THE EMERGENCY BROADCASTING SYSTEM.......!# !# Please do not enter history head-on. Step sideways as if you were entering Yemaya. 5-O nigga! 5-O! She was asleep on the couch next to her grandmother, both dressed in a magnificent square of television light. Amber waves of grain. His weapon fired a single shot. His shot a single fired weapon. His single shot a fired weapon. His single weapon fired a shot. His weapon. His shot. Fire! The old woman shakes. Her fists tremble in front of her face. Her cry is Florida’s trembling metronomic moan for James,
Damn, damn, damn!

Inside the square: violence.
The yellow is assaulting,
systematic. A bleating caution signal.
Outside the square: distress.
The penciled half word, “poli—
prophetic. A fragmented warning.

If I run, you run, nigga, we all runnin. This was founded / Years ago / By broke slaves / Years ago / Who did not have / Years ago. They gathered around the computer to watch him die again and again on a loop. The bullet struck the child in the head—But then, suddenly I knew somebody else did it, some bastard had hurt a little girl—and exited her neck. No, it was a man at the bottom of a staircase with arms like rifles. No, it wasn’t a man at all. Something inside the woman is kneeling. Chanting, “You ain’t nothin but a bitch wit a badge!” The crowd was barking at them so they hit it on the nose. The children took off through the streets with bricks, crying rivulets of milk. They fed them from an ailing river that sat down in one place like a swamp. I. Am. In. TEARS. This isn’t a real answer. She isn’t the victim we typically cry for. Wade through the stomach of the storm to fetch a bale of Wonder Bread. Thieving-ass nigga. Triflin’-ass nigga. I was trying to stay calm—It didn’t happen. It did not happen—but nobody would talk to me. They kicked in the door and shot the girl in her sleep. White ppl, plz.

The square of light is tyrannical,
a cinematic announcement of the primitive
tiny brown car. Inside this,
there are bars on the windows.
The half word scrawled below leans right which
graphology reveals as a loss of logic.
Hysteria is close by.

Naw, man. Naw. Please, get up. I’m begging. In the little girl’s dream is a creamsicle sunset, a forest, a ring of princesses unfurling spools of golden hair to the cackling music of her braids as she dances with them. To be young, gifted, and black. And dead. It was a suicide. They pinned her eyes open with Photoshop. The hell is wrong with y’all? She’s calling to her as if she were a song. No woman, no cry. None of it makes any sense; where is the body supposed to go? Please let him be alive. Please let him be alive. He didn’t need to explain why he’d imagined it. Y’all can’t fuck wit the po-lice. Y’all can’t fuck wit the po-lice. She unhinges her jaw and sirens pour into the room. The water covered the chariots, the horsemen, and all that came into the sea after them. In the little girl’s dream the cry pricks a murder of crows from the trees. It is the last thing she feels before dark.  

return to top