If space makes the pattern, her absence is filling a quota.

The president says, 
            “we’re a nation of laws” :—
The limerick 
            under her dreaming :—that lilting.
At seven 
            a Seuss-rhyme’s still funny.
            And who’s to say wouldn’t have been, still, at 30?
            The Sneetches or What Was I Scared Of?

She’s seven, asleep on the living room sofa.

     ] in amphibrachs—:
                                    who hears her
                                                            breathing? [

If space makes the pattern, her absence is filling a quota.

                                    This absence—:          Aiyana.

            But what was the officer scared of?
             What reaches for him in the recesses of
            his attention?
            What formal suggestion of
            darkness needs stagger
            to formless?
If space makes the pattern—:
                        egregious—:

                                    This grief in the rhythm of—: uplift too
                        graphic—:
                        a measure of struggle.
Which struggle with law
                                    holds the dark in it? Keeps
                                              the dark of
                                                Quinletta, LaToya, Kimkesia, Oneka, Natasha, Breonna…
                                    my still-breathing cousins
                                                ] your still-breathing cousins [
alive in it.         Aiyana. Her breath in perfection—:
at seven—:      This measure for measure on measure on measure
or else—:


Law is dead, Aiyana. It never was

More by Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon

Transit of Venus

The actors mill about the party saying rhubarb
because other words do not sound like conversation.
In the kitchen, always, one who's just discovered
beauty, his mouth full of whiskey and strawberries.
He practices the texture of her hair with his tongue;
in her, five billion electrons pop their atoms. Rhubarb
in electromagnetic loops, rhubarb, rhubarb, the din increases.

RR Lyrae: Matter

He still exists as flesh; it's the idea
that's dissipated—: husband :—what was he?
But a word I loved? There is no panacea
for missing syllables: his body: we
all know what matter's mostly made of—: space
obtains—: One day I realized I beleive—: 
the space in everything is God: that force
of present absence: pen: expanse: I grieve—
] old fashioned: distance: squinting it into view [
between body and name—in here!—I'm loose 
as love is—: nebulous—: what good
this pointillism—: our eyes won't do—: 
Sometimes the absences in us seem so profuse, 
I wonder we don't pass through wood.

Challenger

pretty's just armor
something else

to wear like a dress or a name
not magic like skin

apparel apparent apparently
repellant pretty
don't draw

flies like
honey we just pretend

it does skin is

what draws you don't
believe me

just think skin flick 

the winter sky 
is not a skin you 
might fly right 

out

past it but pretty	
makes an atmosphere
it's hard to get back in

one hitch one weak 

O ring and you are that 
white                    dense 
puff of pinkish smoke 

too thick for cloud
trailers swerving off in opposite
directions someone not
coming home you believed
lifting off you were

bound somewhere boundless 
you will never be that

pretty again

Related Poems

not an elegy for Mike Brown

I am sick of writing this poem
but bring the boy. his new name

his same old body. ordinary, black
dead thing. bring him & we will mourn
until we forget what we are mourning

& isn’t that what being black is about?
not the joy of it, but the feeling

you get when you are looking
at your child, turn your head,
then, poof, no more child.

that feeling. that’s black.

\\

think: once, a white girl

was kidnapped & that’s the Trojan war.

later, up the block, Troy got shot
& that was Tuesday. are we not worthy

of a city of ash? of 1000 ships
launched because we are missed?

always, something deserves to be burned.
it’s never the right thing now a days.

I demand a war to bring the dead boy back
no matter what his name is this time.

I at least demand a song. a song will do just fine.

\\

look at what the lord has made.
above Missouri, sweet smoke.

Black Laws

Fuss, fight, and cutting the huckley-buck—Dear Malindy,
Underground, must I always return to the country of the dead,

To the coons catting about in the trees, the North Carolina pines
Chattering about sweetening bodies in their green whirring?

Do these letters predict my death—some sound of a twig
Breaking then a constant drowning—a butter bean drying

Beneath my nails? Casket, rascal, and corn bread cooling board.
Dear Malindy, when the muskrats fight in the swamp I knows

It’s you causing my skull to rattle. You predicted my death
With my own baby teeth and a rancid moon beneath our legs.

No girl, my arm still here. The antlers on the mantle yet quiet.
All the ocean’s water without me and yet in me. Never mind,

Malindy. They already shot the black boy on the road for dying
Without their permission. Yes, gal, I put on my nice suit. And wait.

what the dead know by heart

lately, when asked how are you, i
respond with a name no longer living

Rekia, Jamar, Sandra

i am alive by luck at this point. i wonder
often: if the gun that will unmake me
is yet made, what white birth

will bury me, how many bullets, like a
flock of blue jays, will come carry my black
to its final bed, which photo will be used

to water down my blood. today i did
not die and there is no god or law to
thank. the bullet missed my head

and landed in another. today, i passed
a mirror and did not see a body, instead
a suggestion, a debate, a blank

post-it note there looking back. i
haven't enough room to both rage and
weep. i go to cry and each tear turns

to steam. I say I matter and a ghost
white hand appears over my mouth