If They Come in the Morning

after Kerry James Marshall’s Black Painting and after Fred Hampton

In the after of the painting’s scene 
sun slices, shoots through 
the room—but the now-painting
remains dark. In the days after, 
hundreds will tour the bloodshot 
house, I mean it was like 
what Mamie Till said: Leave 
the casket open, I need you to see 
what they did to my son. I can barely 
make out the painting’s two figures—remember
there are three: Akua is nine months pregnant 
next to Fred. I mean the police came 
so early morning resembled night, 
they shot through the mattress and killed 
and killed—Fred died and died.
The bed heavy with two bodies—one 
body heavy with a third, I’m asking you 
to remember. Three asleep at 4:30am. 
In the now-painting Fred’s body is hard 
to make out and alive. Soon he will be 
murdered. My eyes can barely decipher 
the two—remember three—draped 
in brushes of black paint. I am close now
to the painting, as close as catastrophe,
as close as mourning barreling into night.

Commissioned by the Guggenheim Museum as part of the 2023 Poet-in-Residence. Reprinted with permission of the poet.