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For Michael Brown
You tell me to keep quiet as we walk
past the block where black boys are seated
with their hands cuffed behind them,
staring hard into the concrete for answers.
You want me to obey because obedience
keeps us safe and out of trouble.
You say, “why rock the boat?”
You say, comply and everything will be fine.
But what you are really demanding out of me
is a cowardice I cannot muster nor share.
What you demand of me is acceptance
where our paths split onto an forked road.
Where I am from, blackness
walks around with a mouth wide open,
hungry for justice, and we eat it like ugali
and sukuma wiki, with our fingers,
we set free the songs swirling in our bodies
and let those birds fly out into the burning sun,
wings unclipped, feathers in disarray
There’s never any glory in the caging.
We don’t walk around with our hands up.
Compliance is not our language.
We don’t exert extreme politeness out of obligation.
We are not sheep.
So I avert my eyes from my brothers
who test the curb with their silence,
arching under the imminent whip and peppering bullets,
The metal of cuffs heavy as their shackled ancestry.
I avert my eyes to curb my own powerlessness,
For not reaching out to hold them.
I may not know them, but we are kindred
and bound by years of history and skin.
So when the uniforms greet me with exercised civility,
expecting me to respond, my debt is to the sidewalk
where my ancestors sit, to the wall against which they’re slammed,
to the backseat of the cars where they are shoved.
My debt is not to gold of badges on chests ballooned
with the helium of excessive power, and fear.
You greet them if you want. I still have to walk to the next block
And there are miles of sidewalk stretched ahead of us.
Fabienne Josaphat is a writer and poet living in Miami. She recently graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing from Florida International University. Her previous publications include Damselfly, Fourth Genre, Grist Magazine, The Masters Review, Jai-Alai Magazine and The Caribbean Writer.
I think I’m a bad activist because I suck
at project management.
My mind is calmest in the chaos of kids and cooking so maybe
I should just do what I do well.
My friends beseech Egypt not to
execute 500 prisoners in one fell swoop even as I
broadcast the minutiae of my children’s daily diet.
In middle age
the honeycomb of my own mind, I think, has fused at the frontlines of the battles that chose me.
Like a femur worn through, neither my consciousness nor my conscience can withstand the gross weight of the world.
Riddled with those fault lines
I am stronger than ever before and
when I break
the stubborn shards that spring apart
may make useful handtools for those who come behind me.
Laila Malik‘s journalistic work has appeared in rabble.ca and Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper. Her creative non-fiction has appeared in The New Quarterly literary magazine and the IslamicMonthly. She blogs at livefromthepinkwars.wordpress.com.