you said you held a gun first / then a girl / & both begged for mercy / & you are afraid / of your own
body / of the hands that are their own haunting / the coal / bursting through / your glowing skin / black
/ as the morning sun / born dying / the girl / writhing on the bed / the boys behind you / chanting / your
rebirth as a bullet / your reflection / something like your father's / all the good air / sucked out of your
head / legacy of black pain / avenged / by teaching black boys /
to kill / & you want to know / if you are a monster / for being alive / when you cannot remember / the boy you were
some men / teach their sons to fish / some beat their wives / & say nothing / while their sons / inherit
their fists /
if i tell you / i love you / in the light & dark / what i mean is / there is such a thing as forgiveness / i mean
/ some battles / we are born into / wearing / uniforms of blood / & concrete / that
the children we were / almost never survive / that we must forgive the nightmares / their bloody fingers
/ if i tell you / i love your hands / what i mean is / blessed boy / I am not afraid of you
Added: Tuesday, February 2, 2016 / Brown's poem "WITNESS" earned second place in the 2016 Split This Rock Annual Poetry Contest 2016. We are grateful to Rigoberto González for his care and discernment as contest judge.
Ariana Brown is an Afromexicana poet from San Antonio, Texas. She is the recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize, member of the UT Austin winning team at the 2014 national collegiate poetry slam, and is currently working on her first manuscript.