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Featured poet: Billy Tuggle

Matters Of Black Life
a haiku/senryu series

I, as an adult,
fear few things; some intersect...
Republicans, clowns...

March until your rights are
no longer in the footfalls,
but where you reside

Seems like quotas on
Brown lives are hunting license
issued with a badge

May the ancestors
bring prophets to the corners,
fight plagues on the streets

We move
to protest
bad cops,
so you
should beware
of landslides

If I could time-travel,
I'd tag directions on
Underground Railroad

How many
offenses until
scholarship turns
into prison bid?

When police go rogue
why is always the victims
that end up on trial?

TSA fears my
tablet, journal, pens, your book...
What's in your backpack?

Assert my right to
life before law enforcement;
Labeled "terrorist"

White lady on train elbows me
but not clutching her bag

Why conceal-carry
or open-carry
when library cards are free?

Despite all of the
live fire tales, the sun still
shines over the Hood

Ever since 15
I was like 'Fuck algebra...
Teach us human rights!'



Across 79th Street or Verses for Park Manor

Midday News

On the spot report:

Citizen dustup with police

on rapid transit platform

Friday night-fabulous on Tuesday morning,

Young mom yells,

“Fuck you, this is my last one!”

at Jake’s... "request to extinguish"

her misdemeanor and attitude

and consider the consequence of

your actions to the children with you

“Wrong answer,” reporter says

”Back to you.”


Evening News

Rush hour, street numbered "seventy-something"

Municipal license plate belie plain-style

Unmarked sedan, turns into alley

As squad car, siren muted,

Takes wrong-way toward suspects

“Nothing to see here,” they will say

Because once the flashlights come out,

To illuminate probable cause,

When they fit a description,

That is where the story starts


Nightly News

The dollar is void

Your leaders, corrupt

Your environment, toxic

Predators walk amongst us

While activists are arraigned

This is only 20% of the news

Yet 80% of the fear

So they try to counter

“Hurricane Annie ripped the ceiling off a church…”

With “…and now sports”


Every day, anytime

the clock strikes now...

Walk down my street

like you were here yesterday

Greet my neighbors with a knowing nod

Don’t mistake the average kid for your basic stereotype

For many, it’s just a pose to keep them current,

shoulder-to-shoulder with their peers, alive

Don’t ask strangers if they are lost

Especially if they are of pale hues

It’s hard to be lost in a neighborhood

in which you stand out

As much as the Currency Exchange or funeral home

The unfamiliarity is mutual

To alleviate any anxieties

The aroma of barbecue cuts through the pollution

Daily parrots’ migration distract from Midway’s flight pattern

The soundtrack of kids playing should make anybody feel at home

or, if you please, on holiday

Walk down my street

like you are planning a return trip

then make one

Do it with your head up

Use a smile as a passport

Give “Hello" like a jackpot

Like the day is a gift

That you came to share




for Oscar Grant and kindred victims

I have felt its deadly, steel weight,

held its textured grip in my palm,

looked through its sight at a paper silhouette,

squeezed its power-relieving trigger,

seen the piercing hammer bring multiple rounds to terminal velocity,

felt its taut recoil in my wrist and elbow,

smelled the burn of powder and know its undertaste,

I have never been trained for this under government watch

but have never mistaken this last resort for a stun gun

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