Selected Poems II


Susan Lively

In this Moment

In this tragic moment
everything else ceases to be.
A black teen is embraced and bows his head
under weight of the world.
The other boy begins to preach
in tones of hurt and anger:
"They want to shut us down,
every night now," he says.
The tight-knit group of neighbors gather round,
as if protecting the memory of Mike Brown
with their soft, brown bodies.
Behind guarded glances and high walls
beats a tidal wave of emotion.

A white diamond sun shines down
on the vast mound of offerings;
illuminating a pale brown bear
with Sony headphones.
Lying dead in the street,
blank stare on its face;
light glinting off
obsidian beads of its eyes,
staring up at cotton clouds
it cannot see.

The crowd murmurs and shifts restlessly -
a living, breathing organism,
eyeing outsiders and press with suspicion.
Even here in this deeply private moment
there are cameras everywhere,
including my own.
I feel like an intruder here.
But I had to see for myself,
had to pay my respects.

Before I can really begin crystal tears fall
hot and wet, shattering on the ground.
I've come empty-handed,
and regret I have
no offering of my own.
I think about the bag of stuffed animals
suffocating needlessly in my closet.
Alone, like this lost young man.
Alone, like his grieving parents.
Alone, like this community, this neighborhood.
Alone, even in the crowd.

Each carefully placed item screams of sacrifice.
King's words, scrawled in black marker,
resonate from a red and navy Cardinals hat
that proudly bears the words "North Side" on the back.
Nearby someone has left a card that says
"May we use your loss to heal our wounds"
and speaks of how Michael is remembered 
every minute of the day.

Crosses and cards,
bears, mementos, and dogs;
too many to name,
lie prone in the street.
Bright shades fading
stark and nude
against the gray concrete
their shiny newness.
An untouched innocence lost,
amidst burnt out cars
and torn yellow flowers.

Gifts of love
now tarnished and sad;
besmirched with dirt and gravel,
tormented by rain, wind, snow.
But nothing
will make them leave this haunted place now.
A second memorial has taken root
on the corner.
A tower of colors
reaching perilously close to the sky.
As if to defy
the black and white reality of death;
as if to pay homage to it.

No orange roadblock will shatter this silence.
No blue fire will end this demonstration.
They will never kill the repressed voice
that screams out in the dark for justice.
Surrounded by hundreds of thousands,
Michael walks alone in the crowd;
he is untouchable and invincible now.
And like a newborn baby with a cry
the world awakens.