The train came with a police officer
on his gun. He shifts his weight
against the door. A flash back loads
the first time a service weapon was pulled in my face;
the second time it made me lay on the ground;
the third time it put my hands in the air; the fourth time
it pushed me against a wall; the fifth time
it told me it was just doing its job; the sixth time
it kicked my feet apart; the seventh time
it followed me home; the eighth time it grabbed my shirt collar.

Read the signs: it’s illegal to move
between cars.

Read the signs; my body knows
how Klan-rally a cop’s gun feels at eye level.

The ninth time the barrel cocked its head;
the tenth time, it told me it missed me
the last time; it said, burning black bodies is a tradition
it was raised on; the eleventh time the safety and trigger argued
through a range of black fiction. I could’ve been
any made-up one of us: Ricky or Wee-Bey
Mad Max or Tray; we all look the same under the right racism
anyway; the twelfth time it dared me to swing; the thirteenth time
I thought about it; the fourteenth time, I almost did it;
the fifteenth time, there were no cellphones; the sixteenth time
just covered badges; the seventeenth time
it searched me for the broken laws it thought I was;
the eighteenth time I assumed the position without anything
being said.

Copyright © 2020 by Jive Poetic. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 20, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

Twin Poets Al Mills and Nnamdi O. Chukwuocha perform “Monday Morning”

I imagine, you probably wake your kids up with a kiss on the forehead

Saying "good morning sunshine" as you help them make their beds

Your kids have a complete breakfast, then they go rinse, brush & floss

Put on their clean uniforms, grab their bag lunches then skip off to the garage

Then hear "I love you and have a good day" as they get dropped off

But Monday morning in my house is a little different than yours

Because somewhere on her travels home the past few nights, my mom got lost

Now I haven’t seen my mom in a day or two

There are no clean clothes or nothing to eat, so what am I supposed to do?

Yeah, I'm only 12 years old and I haven’t seen my mom all weekend

I not awaken by any I love you’s or alarm clock beeping

But by my little sister standing in my doorway asking me: what are we going to eat?

My little sister she is only 7, she doesn’t know any better

She dressed in the same dirty clothes she wore all last week

She keeps telling me she's hungry, asking me: what are we going to eat?

I say: mommy ain't here, go back to sleep

I got up around 11, while lil sis was still sleep

Hit the corner store and stole us some noodles and chips to eat

While we’re watching TV, my mom staggers back in from her long weekend

We barely looked up from our bowls, we just keep on eating

See this is Monday morning in my house

Love kept us silent—too afraid to hear the truth that might come out

Those unasked questions:

She doesn’t ask us: why we’re not in school?

We don’t ask her: where she’s been?

She doesn’t even ask: where the noodles came from?

She just asked me: to go make her some          

I said: it’s not anymore

Then I handed her my full bowl and walked out to go to the store to steal some more

As I open the door


My social worker is standing there asking me: why am I not in school?


And I say: Monday morning in my house is a little bit different than yours

From Our Work, Our Words… Poems on the pavement (Meja Books, 2015) Copyright © 2015 by Twin Poets. Used with permission of the Twin Poets Al Mills and Nnamdi O. Chukwuocha.