"to my son"

 

every day of your life,
i’ll tell you that you’re a king.
place a dignity-studded crown
on your head so you’ll have 
no choice but to walk
with your head high and 
your back straight.
don’t let them break you down,
son. you come from royalty.
but this isn’t quite your kingdom.
this country
wasn’t built for you,
these streets weren’t made
for you, so over my dead body
will these streets ever raise you.

they beat boys that looked
like you until they were
all fight and all fury, 
but no faith.
all hell and all heat,
but no hope.
all scar and all strife,
but no song.

lifeless bodies
fondled by the murderous fingers
of the chilling summer breeze.
they strung black men 
from trees like Christmas ornaments
and watched the crucified corpses
dance as they pointed and laughed.
don’t you dare dance for them.

no son of mine will
shuck or jive or
pawn his spine
but mind your Ps & Qs 
please. dot your Is and
cross your Ts.
keep your hands where they
can see them and dammit,
enunciate your syllables
when you tell them that you’re 
just reaching for your wallet
please. do it slowly.
promise me.
because chalk outlines, body bags, and blood splatter are a far cry from
a mother’s day present,
i’ll tell you that much.


one day when you’ve grown
four inches past me
but still have
four years before you’re
truly “grown,”
i’ll have to explain to you
why i need you home
before the sun kisses
the horizon and the moon
rises to assume the night shift.
why the street lamps
won’t always caress you with
the warmest light
or why even though the bolded name
of the college you rep so proudly
hugs your chest with love
the hood on your head 
screams a different story
to that officer who’s a little
too prepped to use his gun.
so don’t question me when
i demand that you wear a crew neck
because no matter how 
far you go in life
your skin will speak louder
than your diction and
your degree.

dear son, i haven’t met you yet.
i don’t even know if i’ve met 
your father yet, but i think
about you often- every time i read
the paper and watch the news.
i’d do anything to make
this world a better place for you.
and i promise you won’t
ever doubt the fact that
you are loved fiercely.
i’ll love you until you’re all
star and no street.
you will be all pride and no prison.

every day of your life,
i’ll tell you that you’re a king.
place a dignity-studded crown
on your head so you’ll have 
no choice but to walk
with your head high and 
your back straight.
my son, you come from royalty.
don’t ever, ever let them
break you down.

Guide that inspired this poem: 

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