by Lew Rosenbaum
23 years old
Guinean immigrant in the Bronx,
His name rolls off the tongue
Like waves rising from the port of Conakry
To crash at the foot of the Statue of Liberty.
Shot 41 times
By four white police officers.
Thirty-seven years old
Homeless, Anglo, schizophrenic man.
Taunt his fevered
Fullerton, California, street dreams.
Beaten to death by the police.
19 years old
African American bound for college,
Hope gripped tight,
A future denied.
Shot 6 times
Come: See the blood
Running in the streets of my country.
Does it matter
If it’s 41 shots
Or only 6 –
Or (merely) beaten to death?
Amadou Diallo’s killers
Were judged not guilty.
Kelly Thomas: verdict not guilty.
How will Michael Brown’s killers be judged?
Come see the blood,
Blood that torrents down the streets
Of my poor country.
Michael Brown, his student life opening before him;
Kelly Thomas, living in the trap of his delusions;
They achieved the equality of the bullet and night-stick,
Both shed blood to wash the streets of their cities.
Amadou’s mother cried out, sobbing:
She had “the talk” with her son.
Surely Michael’s mother had
Even before Trayvon Martin
I had “the talk” with my grandson.
Today I shiver as his
Brown-skinned hands brandish his toy rifle.
Come see, how the blood
Floods the streets of my rich country.
These, our words, are
Our weapons draw all the poor together
In what is a tapestry of common purpose,
That join us in a vision of a country
Where no one wants for a place to stay
For food to eat
For songs to sing
Where the conjoined blood
That today separately runs rivulets in the streets
Will bind us together
To return laughter to our throats
Peace to our hearts
Justice to our hands.