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Issue 18, Prosa | May 2016



I have a compulsion to undress my pain on the page. I can’t seem to stop wanting to split myself open to figure out the hurt.

I am reminded of doctors performing surgery on Brother on Bullet Night. Mother saw him laid bare as a newborn baby on the gurney. Chest opened to get at the heart. This is not a metaphor for my pain. This is the flesh and muscle of a 28 year old; this is a brown body fighting to breathe even as lead enters his chest, thigh and brain.

Let me make this clear. What urges I have here to reveal and contort my words is not a conceptual experiment. This is Bullet grabbing a hold of me and not letting me go.

This is me naming a dangerous and unanswerable pain: Bullet. It is me trying to get hold of something that slips through my fingers, staining and roughing them. What else can I name this callous violence? How do I explain these forces that pushes some into this blood poverty, the secrets and stories that are bigger than any page I can write?

Understand that Bullet more than metaphor, more than my own loss and pain. It is bankrupt city with no money for a sketch artist. It is daytime shooting and no one sees anything. It is trial continuance for five years even though there are witnesses. It is knowing a murderer’s name and not being unable to speak it. It is the dread that justice is just a sigh, a shrug of shoulder, or something that will never belong to you.

Bullet is both my desire to show you where I’m from and my failure as a writer to do so. It is my protection from delving into an uncertain mess that sometimes I don’t even want to face. It is also a reminder that bullet is still a bullet. My city, my unsolved song that won’t let me unearth myself from is not afraid to take aim and pull the trigger.

I write of Brother and Bullet because I want you to see this: Father hosing down Brother’s blood from porch. Washing away the red to take back a bit of what violence swallowed. But beneath blood is still cracked cement. We will never be able to piece together our foundation again.

See Mother breaking into sobs against cold sink, her legs giving out to grief. What will allow a mother to rise straight again after a son-loss?

See a son only knowing his father from pictures and stories. See Brother’s children wearing necklaces filled with their father’s ashes.

See me finding a speck of beauty in these ashes, this char of body even while forgiveness remains distant.

See me requesting Brother’s autopsy and case file.

Hear me when I say: Brother and other bulleted brown and black bodies are neither statistic or a conceptualist poet’s playground.