Don’t Shoot

Don’t Shoot

by Lew Rosenbaum

1999

Amadou Diallo

23 years old

Guinean immigrant in the Bronx,

New York.

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.

 

2011

Kelly Thomas

Thirty-seven years old

Homeless, Anglo, schizophrenic man.

Citrus-scented hallucinations

Taunt his fevered

Fullerton, California, street dreams.

Beaten to death by the police.

 

2014

Michael Brown

19 years old

African American bound for college,

Hope gripped tight,

A future denied.

Shot 6 times

In Ferguson,Missouri.

 

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

“the talk.”

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.

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.

 

 

 

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