Before Hate Spitfires My Blackness Into A Casket, I Will Speak

after Dick Gregory1

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


Think waves. Think tsunamis.
As many proud Blacks fists as there are gallons of water

In the Mississippi,
the Euphrates,

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
The Black
And Brown
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
And safe

Than Our skin

Perhaps, the good word in the mouth of
Or the hand of the next James Baldwin or
Or Mae Cowdery
Or maybe

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

We matter

You matter
You matter
You matter
You matter
You matter
You matter
You matter
You matter
You matter
You matter
You matter
You matter
You matter
You matter…


Trayvon Martin
Michael Brown
Rekia Boyd
Jamal Rollins
James Rich, Jr.
Gerald Hall
Deborah Danner
Korryn Gaines
Michelle Shirley
Charleena Lyles
Mabel Jones
Lesley McSpadden
Miriam Carey
Felicia Sanders
Bettie Jones
Amadou Diallo
Sean Bell ...


Aiyana Stanley-Jones
Tyre King
Robert Dentmond
David Joseph
Ava Le’Rey Barrin
Kendre Alston
Sandra Bland
James Mean
Jessica Williams
Laronda Sweatt
Eric Garner ...

Freddie Gray
Philando Castile
Tamir Rice
Justus Howell
Prince Jones
Redel Jones
Clementa C. Pickney
Henry Dumas
Michael J. Stewart
Myra Thompson
Daniel Simmons
Cynthia Marie G. Hurd
Susie Jackson
Ethel Lee Lance
Depayne Middleton-Doctor
Tywanza Sanders
Sharonda Coleman-Singleton
Richard W. Collins, III
Timothy Caughman
Alexia Christian
Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow
Mesha Caldwell
Alphonza Watson
Chay Reed
Sherrell Faulkner
Kendra Marie Adams
Ebony Morgan
TeeTee Dangerfield
Kiwi Herring
Derricka Banner
Jasmine Sierra
Maya Young
Rae’Lynn Thomas
Jaquarrius Holland
Ciara McElveen
Kedaria/Kandicee Johnson
Deeniqua Dodds
Skye Mockabee
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.

  1. Lines from Nigger: An Autobiography by Richard ‘Dick’ Gregory (1964) are used throughout this poem.

    *Italicized lines are 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.

PoetryEvan J. Cutts