Look at me.

Editor’s Note: This is part 2 of a 5-part series of poems titled Red Summer. The rest of the series can be found here.

Content warning: ideation of violence

white women look at me sometimes and I know they think I will kill them. we pass each other on the sidewalk or i step onto the escalator behind them or I glance at them as they sit down on the rowing machine next to me in an empty gym. imagine the thrill of fear, the if he reaches for me pull out my pepper spray if he steps down behind me run away if he gets off the machine too quickly speed dial the police. I see it flicker behind their eyes as they glance away. I have to imagine what comes after I don’t wrap my BIG BLACK HANDS around their throats or come behind them with my LONG BLACK LEGS or touch them with my BIG BLACK BODY. I imagine the relief and the forgetting and how the core of their hatred quiets inside them. I imagine the disappointment that they weren’t able to feel my skin and my rough voice and the strength of my body and then watch me die. I imagine the bile of their desire dripping onto their red-hot hatred and I know that in this moment we are both keenly feeling the weight of our disenfranchisement and I hate them. this moment is the knot where our chains tangle and still I hate them. I feel the heat of it in my chest as my body throws its heart into the throes of dying and being born again, as I grasp the weighty nexus of my hatred by the handle and beat my Big Black Soul into a silent shape that conveys my harmlessness. I forgive them then I hate them and hate them and hate them and I remove my hood and I smile. because who am I if not the aberrant dead, if not the rape fantasy that ends with me hanging. this body is a threat to you because our masters want it to be and you play along and you play along and you kill me and I smile. emmett till emmett till emmett till emmett till emmett till emmett till emmett till and I smile. uncle ulato cousin darryl uncle ulato cousin darryl uncle ulato cousin darryl and I smile.