When Puffy says, and we won’ t stop, 'cause we can’ t stop.

I think of a good night’s sleep
an exhale taking its precious time

to leave my lungs         unworried
about the breathing to come       If only

I did not hail from the sweet state
of panic                               the town’s river,

my adrenaline raging without cease
I’d love peace but the moon is pulling me by my water

I know this is no way to live     but I was born here
a mobile of vultures orbiting above my crib

the noise you speak      bragging
about the luxury of your stillness

reminds me that some children are told to pick flowers
while others are told to pick a tree switch

that’ll best write a lesson across their hide
and my skin is a master course written in welts

I touch myself and read about the years
I cannot escape                              I hold my kids

and pray our embrace is not a history
repeating itself


Copyright © 2020 by Rasheed Copeland. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 22, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I wrote this poem to reflect on the foregone circumstances that many Black children are born into, how these circumstances animate themselves and are taught through their interactions with families and their neighborhoods. Many times, the aforementioned entities are often functioning from their own inheritance of gross mishandling. And without remedy, they are forced to normalize the dysfunction that has been visited upon them. This poem is an attempt to hold space for those who continue to navigate the culture of harm that has informed their entire existence despite how indelible its effects may seem.”
Rasheed Copeland