Taking the Poem from the Poet

What if I tell you they didn’t evacuate
the high school after he brought in the
clock? What if he and clock waited in the
principal’s office
until the police came? You look at me
as though I pulled the fire alarm,
yelled into a crowded theatre. You
think I can erase the weapon out
of the hands of that young man in
Kevlar pointing his assault rifle at me?
Would your pain lessen? Would you
sleep tomorrow? What if I expunge the
hoodie? Outlaw convenience
stores? Institute curfew for all adult males
after 8 p.m.? Did you know that kid
loved horses, ate Skittles, went to
aviation camp? What if
I rub out midnight of the blue, blue
world? Take the jaywalk from the boy
trying to catch a city
bus? Which blue should it be? First or
second? The last thing you hear on the radio
before mashing
another button? What if there were no loosies
to smoke, steal, hawk? What if Sandy used her signal?
I say her name, I canonize the thought all
black lives matter. What if I raise my
voice? What if I don’t stop speaking?
What if I stop talking back?
Then will you miss me?


Copyright © 2019 by Devi S. Laskar. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 11, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“For the past nine years I’ve been struggling to put into words the anger and fear, the survivor’s guilt, and PTSD I’ve felt since May 2010 when my house was raided at gunpoint. I’ve been especially anxious since the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012. I have children who wore hoodies and lived in the South at that time. Three years later, I felt overwhelmed watching the news, it seemed like every month in 2015 there was something new and horrible: the incident in Texas with high school student Ahmed Mohamed, the death of Sandra Bland, and Emilio Mayfield in Stockton, California, among other victims of police violence. I started this poem after taking a daylong workshop with Ellen Bass and Natalie Diaz. I’m so grateful to them for their strategies and suggestions for unlocking the poem.”
—Devi S. Laskar