A poem by Jessi Harrison
The easiest way to break
silence is with sirens.
Lights cutting through blackness
like bullets exiting guns.
That slow, cocked reflex.
That quick draw. That lack
of regret. That dawn rising,
masking any sense of mourning.
They say if you’re in trouble,
screaming “Fire!” is more effective
then “Help!” Apparently, there are
enough hands to extinguish flames,
but never enough to stop
a body mid-fall. On the street, you learn
there are shadows meant for hiding,
but more so, there are shadows built to avoid.
In a country assembled on eradicating persecution,
the flags of bigotry line main street. An argument
over history versus oppression fills the air
like dust in lungs. Heavy, and impossible
to breathe through. Anti-protesters walk backwards
to picket lines and claim progress is whoever
shouts the loudest over quiet signs.
They don’t notice the names on the graves
they trample over to scream their piece.
They don’t give a second thought to the fact
that the red carpet is a river of blood, running
over the blacktop like rain suffocating shined shoes.