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For the City That Nearly Broke Me

A woman tattoos Malik’s name above

her breast & talks about the conspiracy

to destroy blacks. This is all a fancy way

to say that someone kirked out, emptied

five or six or seven shots into a still warm body.

No indictment follows Malik’s death,

follows smoke running from a fired pistol.

An old quarrel: crimson against concrete

& the officer’s gun still smoking.

Someone says the people need to stand up,

that the system’s a glass house falling on only

a few heads. This & the stop snitching ads

are the conundrum and damn all that blood.

All those closed eyes imagining Malik’s

killer forever coffled to a series of cells,

& you almost believe them, you do, except

the cognac in your hand is an old habit,

a toast to friends buried before the daybreak

of their old age. You know the truth

of the talking, of the quarrels & how

history lets the blamed go blameless for

the blood that flows black in the street;

you imagine there is a riot going on,

& someone is tossing a trash can through

Sal’s window calling that revolution,

while behind us cell doors keep clanking closed,

& Malik’s casket door clanks closed,

& the bodies that roll off the block

& into the prisons and into the ground,

keep rolling, & no one will admit

that this is the way America strangles itself.

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

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