Skip to content →


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.

from Bastards of the Regan EraFind more by Reginald Dwayne Betts at the library

Copyright © 2015 Reginald Dwayne Betts
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Published in Poems Reginald Dwayne Betts

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.