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.