razor blades did not

slash rainbows

hands did not

steal light from the dawn

prayers spoken in tongues did not

dissolve into silk pocket linings

air could be bartered

for fire

war could reinvent itself

as a prayer of silence

Breath of the Song: New and Selected Poems (Carolina Wren Press, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Jaki Shelton Green. Used with the permission of the author.

You know the photo: the one of
the young woman with a scarf &
dark hair, crouching over what
used to be a student

screaming why

hands plunging into the low atmosphere
as if she can grab her god’s shoulders &
shake him for letting this happen.
But you don’t know the man in plaid

over her left shoulder. You don’t know
his class had been dismissed early to
participate in democracy. He is too far
away & indistinct for you to see the

thick glasses, the mustache he still
wears fifty years later. You don’t know
that a decade after the National Guard
almost shot him, too, he would become

my father. Daffodils remain silent, but
not complicit: they’re still suffering shock.
Flowers planted in gun barrels, tear gas
tossed back at uniforms. Shoots

of yellow flowers from my baptism
poke through early May soil.

Winner of Wick Poetry Center's 2020 Peace Poem contest. © Megan Neville. Published by the Academy of American Poets on January 28, 2020.