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[United States] Altered States

By Arao Ameny

in this other world
Amadou Diallo pulls out his wallet
41 bullets from three policemen recede back
into their guns like water on the coast of Guinea that crawls
and runs back to the Atlantic Ocean
each salty drop mouths a bullet and eats it whole
little fires disappear
bullets are now bubbles dancing near the mouths of fish

the policemen walk backwards
their blurry bodies in slow motion
the shouts shrink to whispers to quiet
beads of sweat evaporate into the warm still Bronx air
Amadou’s mother never cries or wipes her
face with a white floral handkerchief
she doesn’t meet with other mothers to mourn their sons
she’s not part of a network of mothers who call and console
each other on birthdays or death anniversaries or news conferences

in this universe
Amadou lives and he owns a business
he goes home to Guinea to visit
and comes back to New York City to study computer science
his family doesn't own
any T-shirts with his face etched on them
his mother Kadiatou doesn't cry to Allah in English or French or Fulani
Amadou wipes the sweat from his brow and hums into the midnight sky
the thick night gulps his shadow on February 4, 1999
and a yellow-white street light marks the end of a Thursday
and start of many more tomorrows

in this world
Amadou is not a character in books or films or songs
or television series or the subject of a teacher’s lesson plans
or a historian’s PhD thesis
he is never ‘googled’ as a face to a statistic
there are no prayers at the masjids or churches for Amadou
no articles or radio broadcasts
no swollen wet faces to dry

neither is Breonna Taylor

and Sandra Bland
and Ahmaud Arbery
and Aiyana Mo'Nay Stanley-Jones
and Tony McDade
and Pamela Turner
and Matthew Ajibade
and Rekia Boyd
and Eric Garner
and John Crawford III
and Michael Brown
and Shelly Frey
and Ezell Ford
and Dante Parker
and Michelle Casseaux
and Yvette Smith
and Darnesha Harris
and Laquan Mcdonald
and Atatiana Jefferson
and George Mann
and Tanisha Anderson
and Akai Gurley
and Tamir Rice
and Rumain Brisbon
and Frank Smart
and Natasha Mckenna
and Tony Robinson
and Anthony Hill
and William Chapman II
and Alberta Spruill
and Walter Scott
and Shantell Davis
and Eric Harris
and Philip White
and Mya Hall
and Alexia Christian
and Brendon Glenn
and Victor Manuel Larosa
and Jonathan Sanders
and Salvado Ellswood
and Joseph Mann
and Freddie Blue
and Albert Joseph Davis
and Darrius Stewart
and Billy Ray Davis
and Samuel Dubose
and Troy Robinson
and Christian Taylor
and Sean Bell
and Brian Keith Day
and Michael Sabbie
and Asshams Pharoah Manley
and Felix Kumi
and Keith Harrison McLeod
and Junior Prosper
and Anthony Ashford
and Dominic Hutchinson
and Paterson Brown
and Lamontez Jones
and Bettie Jones
and Alonzo Smith
and Tyree Crawford
and India Kager
and Janet Wilson
and Sylville Smith
and Bennie Lee Tignor
and Yvonne Smallwood
and Kayla Moore
and Alfred Olango
and Mohamed Bah
and George Floyd

they fly red kites in an open grass field
red like the police sirens that never come
to take their breaths away








Listen as Arao Ameny reads[United States] Altered States.”

Added: Wednesday, September 6, 2023  /  Used with permission.
Arao Ameny

Arao Ameny is a Maryland-based poet and writer from Lango, Uganda. She earned an MFA in fiction from the University of Baltimore, an MA in journalism from Indiana University, and a BA in political science from the University of Indianapolis. Her first published poem “Home is a Woman” in The Southern Review won the 2020 James Olney Award. “The Mothers” appeared in World Literature Today’s 2021 Black Voices Series, guest-edited by poet Mahtem Shiferraw, and was selected by poet Paula Bohince for the 2022 Best New Poets Anthology. In 2021, she won a Brooklyn Poets Fellowship and was a Brunel International African Poetry Prize finalist. She was a biography writer and editor at Poetry Foundation from 2021 to 2023. Learn more at Arao's website.

Image Description: Arao Ameny has a head wrap tied to the front. She is smiling and facing to the right side of the screen. She has on wooden earrings and a black jacket. The photo is in black and white.

Other poems by this author