Before Hate Spitfires My Blackness Into A Casket, I Will Speak
This is elegy for the bullet
For the hand that lets it go
For the violence sown into—
My condolences to the generations of Mothers
Who swallow grief by the clip
Lead in their guts like five or fifty ‘warning’ shots
That ain’t miss//
To Mama Gregory,
you didn’t die a slave for nothing
Didn’t scrape and beg, work and pray for nothing
Mama raised her boy to be a great man
And greater still, is the truth he placed aside
For my father to hand to me
For me to deliver to You:
We are gonna bust this thing
W I D E O P E N
Think waves. Think tsunamis.
As many proud Blacks fists as there are gallons of water
In the Mississippi,
and Nile combined
Our souls be scarred deep
Our sorrow too like the rivers*
Don’t think We ain’t learn to sing the sorrow out
Of ancient wounds We been singing
Let the truth of this disquiet you
Wade your trigger-happy fingers in your holsters
Fitting, how a bloody thirst will command the hands
Like trees, to bear rotting fruit—
Orchards of odd apples,
The most peculiar peaches, and pears
The size of children//
This is elegy for
And beautiful people
I did not name today
For those whom I won’t know to name until tomorrow//
When next We wake,
May We inhabit a space more sacred
Than Our skin
Perhaps, the good word in the mouth of
Or the hand of the next James Baldwin or
Or Mae Cowdery
The moment a Black child learns the Blues been a body
Of water before We swam it out our throats
into the Sun and now, by the rain, they know
We still here.
Hate couldn’t halt the nature of Us existing
And so, We will. exist
As wind and water soil and blood
As Sound As Light As Matter
James Rich, Jr.
Sean Bell ...
Ava Le’Rey Barrin
Eric Garner ...
Clementa C. Pickney
Michael J. Stewart
Cynthia Marie G. Hurd
Ethel Lee Lance
Richard W. Collins, III
Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow
Kendra Marie Adams
Chyna Doll Dupree ...*
Many of those listed were killed extrajudicially at the hands of police. Several however, were not but were victims of hate crimes. Others, like Lesley McSpadden and Mabel Jones, are mothers who lost children to police brutality. Not all listed are Black/African-American; few are Latinx and Indigenous to express solidarity and intersectionality within the ideals of Black Lives Matter. This poem is not sponsored by or otherwise affiliated with BLM.
Lines from Nigger: An Autobiography by Richard ‘Dick’ Gregory (1964) are used throughout this poem.
*from “A Negro Speaks of Rivers” by Langston Hughes (1921)
Evan J. Cutts is a 24-year-old Boston-native, poet, writer, and Chancellor's MFA Mentors Fellow at Rutgers University - Newark. Evan was a member of the Emerson College 2017 CUPSI Team and 2017 National Poetry Slam “Last Chance Slam” Team. His poetry navigates Blackness, locality, mythology, and magic. His poetry is published in Apogee Journal, The Merrimack Review, Jabberwock Review, Juked, The Offing, and others.