Hard times everywhere. Black lives matter. And Black art matters.

This morning, I woke up to a text message I received last night. 

"I wonder if you are sitting and watching live feeds from ferguson too."

And last night, I wasn't. I saw the news. I read some Aimé Césaire poems. I went to sleep. I dreamt of translating poems. And woke up with those dreams swirling in my head.

This morning, I found that message and Ferguson came rushing in. And I listened to the radio reports. Read the online news. 

And then went back to a book of poems I've been reading. Shane McCrae's book of poetry, Blood.

And something about spending time with his words brought back the enormity of the situation. The fact that, as I read in a friend's post online, it's not the riots that are the great risk or the greatest threat, it's the possibility of more Darren Wilsons.

You stab a man you      break his skull

you want that man to see you

That man won't know he's      / Nothing

if he can't look you in the eye

Reading online of Wilson's testimony: this demon he imagined had been unleashed upon him. The desperation and the mania Wilson imagined in the body, the face, the arms of Michael Brown. The depth of white fear. The shocking, irrepressible white ability to imagine and re-imagine the possibility of danger in a black body.

McCrae has a poem in the voice of a free black soldier during the Civil War era. This voice says:

One day we stopped a train took    Yankee / Money

I held my rifle on a Yankee

soldier he    just looked at me so scared

Like he never knew / What a rifle was

until he saw one in my hands

It seems Wilson was afraid because—as officers always say in these murder cases—he thought he saw Brown reach for his waistband. Even the possibility of a gun in a black hand is overwhelming. The possibility makes for a reasonable fear in the eyes of that grand jury. The possibility is enough to make murder justifiable in the eyes of the law.

The videos I saw online have interviews with witnesses to the murder. They talk about the injustice represented by the amount of time Brown's body spent on the ground. How could they leave his body there so long. How could they not cover his body with something. There were children around, they say. One woman said the blood was red at first. Then, the blood stayed there so long on the pavement that it turned black.

And blood sprayed from the artery

A rose

like if the Lord had stopped

making in the middle of mak-

ing red


and never made their boundaries


As Autumn Knight says in this video: Hard times everywhere.

Autumn Knight: in-situ artist in –residence (006) 2014 from PeopleStaring on Vimeo.


Black lives matter. And Black art matters. And helps.