POEM: We are coming

They came to us with open hands, whip marks 

on their backs, broken shackles on their legs, 

and said, We are human beings. Treat us as such.

 

And some of us said, Yes, you are, and took their hands.

And some of us said, Shut up, nigger, and called for 

the tear gas, the fire hose, the dogs.

 

We came to you with open hands, with flowers 

in our hair, with the words of a preacher, and said, 

We are all human beings. Love is the only way.

 

And some of you said nothing. And some of you said 

tear gas, rubber bullets, Martin on the balcony, 

thirteen unarmed students at Kent State.

 

We come to you in numbers, tears in our eyes, 

signs in our hands, and say, Black Lives Matter, 

justice for Freddie Gray, no more police brutality, 

hands up don’t shoot

 

And some of you still said nothing. And others 

said riot gear, tear gas, rubber bullets, 4-wheel drive 

driving over resistant bodies, torches in the humid night, 

You will not replace us, some very fine people.

 

We come to you with masks on our faces, not 

to hide who we are, but to stave off disease, 

we come to you risking infection, risking 

a death of not being able to breathe, like 

Eric Garner, like George Floyd, we come 

in masses like never before because we have 

no jobs, no protection from the disease, no 

compensation for our losses, no comfort 

in our grief except a man who tear-gasses 

citizens so he can walk a few yards in triumph

and hold over his head before cameras a book 

he has never read, that does not say what 

he thinks it says, we come to you saying 

We the People, and those of you who are not 

still silent, hiding indoors, you say by your actions 

You are the Enemy. We, your neighbors.

 

We are coming for you. Not with weapons, but 

not with flowers, not with violence, neither with 

peace, not the peace you demand, which is order, 

which is death–we are coming for you as the wave 

comes for the shore, shaken by the movement 

of the ocean floor, the turning over in the deep– 

the tsunami wave that pulls back and pulls back 

before it unfolds, breaking down everything in its path.

 

We are coming.

Not just a pretty girl with flowers

Here are two poems I wrote in April 2015, during the Baltimore Uprising after the death of Freddie Gray. The Uprising overlapped the Floralia that year very closely.

Dead boys and pretty flowers

If dead boys still became flowers,
every sidewalk in America
would be split with roots.
In Baltimore, Freddie Gray;
in New York City, Eric Harris;
in Ferguson, Mike Brown.
Brown skin and black hair
and white, human bones
lying everywhere, and not even
a chalk outline: Execution
is no murder. O goddess Flora,
is every flower a death?
is every bloom a tragedy?
Narcissus, Hyacinth, Crocus
joined by Michael, Eric, Freddie,
Trayvon Martin standing with
Polydeukion, young Memnon,
young Achilles. O goddess Flora,
help us make sense, help us
to mourn as well as rejoice
in a world where every flower
is an open vulva, is a dead boy.

A ballad of spring flowers

Flora wears a pretty gown
but her feet are in the mud.
Her hair is twined with flowers
but there’s shit between her toes.
Without manure and mud
her flowers will not grow.
She waters them with blood
if nothing else will flow.

You may dance with Flora
but she’ll outlast your art.
Her feet can never tire
unlike your mortal heart.
But she will not forget you;
she’ll bring flowers from your grave
and wear them when she dances
in her next immortal rave.

Do not curse the goddess
for she is not the cause
of deaths that have no answers
and anger without pause.
The Fates ordained that flowers
should come from shit and mud;
but Flora will weep over them
when they have sprung from blood.