Ed. note: Over the next few days I’ll be posting responses to the murder of Michael Brown and non-indictment of Darren Wilson. Prose, poems, essays, collages, music, photos from vigils/rallies, and film for inclusion can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo of the protest in front of South Bay Correctional Facility in Boston, MA, which the poem refers to, by Anne Champion
MARCHING FOR MIKE BROWN
I come home from Palestine to watch
more boys vanish into their brown bodies,
the bodies face down on the concrete,
picked up, propped up, and paraded on display
by everyone who thinks they have a right
to puppeteer knowledge of a life—
thug, criminal, demon—
on a brown body. Every bullet
equals guilt—but for whom?
In the streets, we march for hours,
channel rage into chants.
In the streets, everyone drags
a weight behind them heavy
as a brown body. Still, our grief
is trampled on like shadows—
thug, criminal, demon, he deserved it.
Silhouettes greet us in the windows
South Bay Correctional Facility,
they clench bars, flash
lights on and off, trace
Mike Brown’s name into the glass,
pump fists in the air.
“We see you. We hear you,” we chant,
though we can’t see their faces, we can’t
hear a thing—these voices muted
since birth, then the quiet
translated into threat: thug, criminal, demon.
A protestor turns to me and says,
“I was frisked by police since I was a kid,
taught it was normal to submit to strange
hands on my body when I’d done nothing.
They were training me for jail.”
We have failed these brown bodies,
we have failed Mike Brown,
we have let the bodies disappear
until they disappeared.
A brown teenage girl crumples
in the street like a piece of paper,
heaves and wails and cries out
that she can’t breathe, and we take
our bodies, every color of body,
and build a wall around her
to protect her pain from stampeding
while a stranger kneels over her grief
and unfolds her body as delicately
as an origami bird. We protect
her until she can stand again
beside us. When she does,
we march forward as one wall,
the shadows wave and cheer
at the only kind of wall we need—
only this wall can absorb
the brown bodies, only
this wall can absolve us.