To the White Boys Who Sang Suwoop as We Passed on a PWI

— Jason Harris

for Jonathan Peters (1995–2016)

You are lucky I have control       of myself my boys           I have armed
all of us with patience                 We have had that conversation
& if we wanted                            if we really wanted          we could have made that call

’cause where we come from       everything that leaves     the mouth         in plain
speech or song              has meaning     Everything we say             a message
wrapped in warning     which is to say               I do not want to do this

But away from flame    a wick can only dance
                                                                                              so much

Where we come from everything we say            a matter of concern           couched
in safety           You good?             rhetorical for   I see you                be safe
rhetorical for   please come back  it’s okay, it’s okay              in which

we mean           I understand        Strapped          with patience we stopped
in our tracks    & the tour guide           o the tour guide                 kept speaking
When your mouth’s shaped        like theirs         you don’t realize the hurt

coming from it                            or when to stop               Remember our conversation about micro   -
aggressions?
       My lips trembled.         That was one of them.          Summer heat diffused
my patience into a puddle          of humiliation                 in which later     on the ride

home    I sat in              like grief           Summer heat blossomed                 my fists
into opened     palms    facing God       her light & goodness falling            across my life-
lines      This is why        we have those discussions     I say     & the road           the high

one we learn      to maneuver         early in adolescence            needs love            affection
a break
             because white boys who make light           of the lives we live             &
the colors we’ve chosen                          to claim                 leave us no option             but to take it

the high road   When we arrive                               there is a wait   & traffic is jammed
How badly       I wanted to call up Johnny             from the grave                who died
for an avenue                 which is to say property                 by gunshot wounds           to the

head.      Had he picked up         I would have told him                    get the strap
but I have learned          better & loved more warmly         Johnny would have said
pulling shell casings from his head         like flowers from earth                   we savin’

our bullets now                 we savin’ our bodies too                     for opportunity                   to occupy
space       So keep ya’ patience bruh & let me rest          & besides            burgundy
ain’t a color we fight fo’                   let alone die fo’                    where we come from


Read more from Issue No. 17 or share on Facebook and Twitter.