A gray hoodie will not protect my son from rain, from the New England cold. I see the partial eclipse of his face as his head sinks into the half-dark and shades his eyes. Even in our quiet suburb with its unlocked doors, I fear for his safety—the darkest child on our street in the empire of blocks. Sometimes I don’t know who he is anymore traveling the back roads between boy and man. He strides a deep stride, pounds a basketball into wet pavement. Will he take his shot or is he waiting for the open-mouthed orange rim to take a chance on him? I sing his name to the night, ask for safe passage from this borrowed body into the next and wonder who could mistake him for anything but good.
Originally published in Green Mountains Review. Copyright © 2015 by January Gill O’Neil. Used with the permission of the author.
(for Stephon Clark’s grandmother) shave your face. a haircut even. kiss your kids. your partner. your parents. tell them you listened. you kissed their asses like you were taught. kissed their asses and still. walk. or run. don’t matter. glue your identification to your forehead. wrap yourself in the flag. hand over heart. hit the high note. hide your slang under your tongue. delete your profile. scrub the net. clean your blood. prepare your body for peepholes no one will ever peer into.
Copyright © 2018 by Jason Reynolds. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 31, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.