When they found his body today,
all forty-seven of his years drowned
in a pool he paid for with blood, I thought
of my brother. He has life. The police cracked
Rodney King’s head open before a live
audience. This is 1991 & the Bad Boys
from Detroit were in the Finals again, or will be
when June comes around & all around me shatters.
They say King had 59 fractures, bones brittle
brittle after that night when he became
why every young dude I knew shouted “Fuck
the Police.” We only cursed what could kill us:
the day blood washed over the freshest pair of Timbs
on a Richmond street, those batons slam dancing
on King’s head, my father’s weary eyes, &
the money, all those thousands we spent trying
to resurrect a dead man with an appeal,
the millions spent making King rise again.
His name, my brother’s, is Juvenile, or Juvie—but
no longer Christopher. This is what he tells me
the men he breaks bread with call him. Or called
him, a dozen years ago, before he, too, became
an old head, veteran of count time & shakedowns.
It’s how they christen niggas who own their first
cell by sixteen—& because King took that ass
whupping four days before cuffs clanked around
Christopher’s wrist that first time, back when he
was what they call on the run, when the news
came on, & we caught it halfway through, just
listening as we sweated the phone for news,
we saw King, & thought him Chris, my brother,
slumped under batons & boots, under the cops’ blows.
Copyright © 2015 Reginald Dwayne Betts
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.