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
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
…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.