For a Bail Denied

           for A.S. 

I won’t tell you how it ended, &
his mother won’t, either, but beside
me she stood & some things neither

of us could know, & now, all is lost;
lost is all in what came after—the kid,
& we should call him kid, call him a

child, his face smooth & without history
of a razor, he shuffled – ghostly – into
court, & let’s just call it a cauldron, &

admit his nappy head made him blacker
than whatever pistol he’d held,
whatever solitary awaited; the prosecutor’s

bald head was black or brown (but
when has brown not been akin to Black
here? to abyss?) & does it matter,

Black lives, when all he said of Black
boys was that they kill? – the child beside
his mother & his mother beside me &

I am not his father, just a public
defender, near starving, here, where the
state turns men, women, children into

numbers, seeking something more useful
than a guilty plea & this boy beside
me’s withering, on the brink of life &

broken, & it’s all possible, because the
judge spoke & the kid says
I did it I mean I did it I mean Jesus—

someone wailed & the boy’s mother yells:
This ain’t justice. You can’t throw my son
into that fucking ocean. She meant jail.

& we was powerless to stop it.
& too damn tired to be beautiful.

From Felon. Copyright © 2019 by Reginald Dwayne Betts. Used by permission of the author.