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By Joshua Bennett

-- for Renisha McBride

When yet another one of your kin falls,
you question God’s wingspan, the architecture
of mercy. It is Friday morning, & despair
is the only law

left intact. No one knows how to stop
the bleeding. This many black bodies deep,
the synonymy between ropes & gunfire is lost
on no one, you assume. You assumed, brother,

that this was your solitary cross, the only anguish
your daughter might actually be spared: the bulls-eye,
its glare, this hunt you know better than any other algorithm:
subtraction by bullet, our daily negation, how ageless it is,

the laughter too, yes, the grisly surprise
of every birthday past the age of 18,
the music we have yet to invent
for mourning this specific.

Detroit wails in the wake of a shotgun blast
& you do not know how to write
what you can’t imagine the end of.
Why don’t we grieve for women,

for girls, the same way we do
our men, our vanishing boys?
Perhaps it is this body, ever mutable
in its danger, always shifting between target

& terror that demands too much
recognition, this history of sons swinging
& drowned & cut up & caged
which elides revision, leaves no space

for other grief. Genuflected by disbelief,
you spend entire nights alone,
folded into the shape of a mouth,
cursing the limits of strength.

Added: Friday, January 16, 2015  /  To hear Bennett read this poem, please visit his contribution to #BlackPoetsSpeakOut. “I am a black poet who will not remain silent while this nation murders black people. I have a right to be angry.” Used with permission.
Joshua Bennett

Joshua Bennett is the author of The Sobbing School (Penguin, 2016). He holds a Ph.D. in English from Princeton University, and an M.A. in Theatre and Performance Studies from the University of Warwick, where he was a Marshall Scholar. In 2010, he delivered the Commencement Address at the University of Pennsylvania, from which he graduated with the distinctions of Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude. Winner of the 2015 National Poetry Series, Dr. Bennett has received fellowships from the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop, Cave Canem, the Josephine de Karman Fellowship Trust, and the Ford Foundation. His writing has been published or is forthcoming in Boston Review, The Kenyon Review, Poetry and elsewhere. He is currently a member of the Society of Fellows at Harvard University.

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