Reckoning (with Dr. King’s Dream)
a free verse poem
For my school’s 2021 Martin Luther King Jr. Day Assembly, I was tasked to write a poem about dreams. After some false starts and the requisite amount of writer’s block, I arrived at this piece.
for George Floyd
By the time I get to George, it is too late.
It is quiet, nightfall.
I cannot fall asleep, yet I cannot tell which version of the nightmare I’m in.
Yesterday, we laughed with all our teeth,
and today we pay the price.
And so I am desperate.
I put George’s head in my lap
I am trying to press the blood back into his body, trying to unbruise him;
I give him my breath and that is the only time I have ever felt breathless.
I am trying, and it is not enough.
Can you blame me?
I try to press the dreams back into his palms, the love back into his heart.
I go to his children and tell them, “daddy loves you”
If it is my portion to spend the rest of my life in mourning, so be it.
If that is what it means to be black, so be it, but
I do not believe that to be black is to always be the asphalt that assaults you.
I once heard that we are not the things that have happened to us.
I cry big, wet tears and blow my nose loudly and laugh with a blood-soaked smile.
That’s the most naïve thing I have ever heard, yet
I try that, too.
I try to press this knowledge into his consciousness–
We are not the things that have happened to us which means that
George was never murdered, never humiliated
He never regressed into his hashtag, that was only the natural progression of things.
I do not give him my breath, because his was never stolen from him.
I change out of my sweat pants and back into my pajamas.
I wore these for Breonna’s murder, too.
And the one before Breonna’s.
And the one before that.
Can you blame me?
George’s dreams still haunt me at night.
They are the first thing I see when I wake,
and the vision on my eyelids as I fall asleep.
It is dark, quiet.
I trace the lines in the palm of my hand and
thank God that I am still alive.
I laugh, again, because it is the only emotion
I have left to my name.
All my tears have been spent on other Black bodies, other brown bodies.
I try to imagine the things George wanted,
the things he dreamt of.
But my thoughts are barren–
How could he dream of joy, of jubilation
when all America afforded him was a jail cell?
How could he want peace, to protect his family and be protected by his friends,
when all America offered was
pain, and more pain, and keep running, Black boy.
George tried–so hard–to rebuild,
and it was not enough.
I am trying–so hard–and even that is not enough.
Can you blame me?
In which version of our stories will this ever be enough?
I sit at the edge of my bed and feel cool tears dry against my face.
I do not give him my breath, because he was never murdered.
I do not give him my tears, because I was not humiliated.
I do not remember his final hours, only the precious moments he spent living.
Before he was a household name, I imagine he was a father.
Before he was a symbol, I imagine he was a leader.
Before he was the hashtag to a performative Insta post, I imagine he was a mentor, a co-worker, a human being.
He did not do any of this to be honored, to be celebrated.
He did not do any of this to himself.
We did this to him.
We did this.
I laugh, and there is no smile this time.
About threescore ago, a great American poured ice on the raging fire of injustice when he spoke into being his dream for equality in American society.
But how was George supposed to dream, if he could not even draw a breath?
How was he supposed to fly, if he was pinned to the ground face down and told to go f**k himself?
I still do not believe that to be housed in a body that is Black is to always be dressed in black for the funeral, but I wonder:
In which version of this story will King’s dream be enough?
In which version of this story will we ever be enough?
One Last Thing–
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