After the Arrow | Dorothy Johnson-Laird

After the Verdict

Dedicated to the memory of Amadou Diallo
I see your kind eyes shining out of those pictures
with your brothers and  sister
journeying from Africa to America
you came here because you wanted your mother to relax into old age 
you wanted so much for your family
your hope, not forgotten after all these years  

my breath is captured for a moment 
I stare at the tv screen flickering out at me 
I look at the holes where the gun shots poured in
just looking at those spaces, I want them filled back in 
wanting the gun shots to disappear 
wanting something, anything to take them away 

I was imagining the policemen outside your door 
the fear on your face, in your gentle hands 
as they reached for their guns before reaching for thought 
they were on automatic, aiming at a target 
they didn’t ask your name or address 
they didn’t ask anything of you

what happened to their feeling? 
did it get lost as the gun fire let loose 
did it get lost as your body splayed out in front of them 
what happened to your humanity, your wisdom 
your spirit that caught fire?

how could a wallet be mistaken for a weapon? 
how could your beautiful face be mistaken for a killer’s?
as you stood and then fell down
blues fell with blood in that hallway

that blood stain could be seen for days years afterwards 
even though they tried their best to cover it up

how treacherous is the journey to silence? 
how treacherous is the journey to silence?  

I wanted to tell you Amadou 
the police were set free 
but we will not let them forget 
we will not let them forget the murder 
because after killing, the blood can never be washed off their hands 

and now, I imagine your mother
shaking in the night she was told her oldest son died 
her whole body shakes in the blue night 
her whole body shakes in blues 
she carries that grief on her shoulders 
In her chest, it stays inside her eyes  
such sadness 

what it must feel to lose a child? 
to lose her oldest son 
to never be able to look in his eyes again 
to never be able to hold him 
never be able to hold -   Amadou 
she holds her head - Amadou 
she says his name over and over again

she is sinking 
she is sinking Amadou 
she is lost in her memory of birthing you 
of bringing you into this life 
yet somehow she stays standing 
she doesn’t surrender  

and I too am remembering 
I wish you the peace that comes with still, cool water 
the peace that comes with the African sun rising over your tender hands 
rising and wrapping cloth around your bullet wounds with love 
and singing you home to your resting place 
and singing you home 
just singing you home with love

©Maurício Mascaro
via Pexels

Arrow Man

Dedicated to John Trudell (February 15, 1946 – December 8, 2015) 
Santee Dakota Activist,  Actor, Musician, Writer and Poet 
The great lie is that it is civilization, it is not civilized.
John Trudell
When Black Elk, Heȟáka Sápa, the Lakota spirit man dreamed 
He said that Indians moved in a circle
They did not move in straight lines

And you too danced in your own way  
Never direct 
Honoring the footsteps of your ancestors 

You were a modern seeker 
Standing firm on Alcatraz island as part of the Red Power Movement 
It was a two year occupation, you demanded recognition for broken treaties that were strewn across open highways 

Broken papers, broken ink that was swept over or swept away  
By place names called Custer after the great American hero who was highlighted in official history books
By lies of a murderer who bulleted Indian bodies into the cold frozen snow 

Oneday a line of fire flickered out across your family roof
Trapped inside the house were your pregnant wife, your mother-in-law and three of your children
They were killed in the fire
Even though the official word was that the fire's origins were unknown
You knew it was set, deliberate, the pattern on the roof was too direct 

'I died then, I had to die, in order to get through it' you wrote 
Your writing came to you as a gift at that time  
Your poetry became your “hanging on lines” 
Your writing came with such force that you could not refuse it
It overtook your spirit, it was your way to survive 
Once you said that Indian people did not need to wait for a nuclear war 
It was already happening on the land from the mining of Uranium 

You loved the grasses, the high sacred Black Hills, the sunrise moving within you
You would not let their lies quieten you
You would not put down your weapons 
Arrows flowing over your fingers 

You opened your hands up  
Seeking wisdom from the North 
Your words fearless as they spun out in circles across the night sky

©2022 Dorothy Johnson-Laird
All rights reserved

Dorothy Johnson-Laird…

…is a poet, social worker, and activist who lives in New York City.  She received a B.A. in creative writing from New School University and an M.F.A in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College.  Dorothy also works as a music journalist with a passion in African music. She has published journalism AfroPop with and Music Central, among others.

Recent poetry has been published with The BeZine and Fresh Words Magazine. More of Dorothy’s poetry can be found on her FaceBook page.


Be inspired… Be creative… Be peace… Be

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