Carnegie Mellon University

"A Brief Life"

Third Place for College Poetry 

so i’m wearing a black lives matter hoodie
& walking through campus / because the protest
is in a few minutes & the joke is
i’m wearing black on black & standing near the jefferson davis
statue / i mean i’m standing near the stump
where the jefferson davis statue used to be / he
was removed formally a few months ago / now
only his name remains / engraved / in stone
& the joke is i’m wearing a black lives matter hoodie
standing next to the ghost of jefferson davis
& of course / the campus police are driving by
at this exact moment / & i turn away
as though black isn’t a vacuum of light / a gap left by loss
a space entirely devoid of matter / a glitch in the sunlight
as though the police will not detect the ghosts
they left me with / as though i’m not always wearing blood on blood
& because of the ghosts / or the heat
or their own preference for intimidation
the police keep driving
i take the back way to reach the protest
anyway / the protest / which isn’t even that large
which is being monitored by police
& i take a paper with the chants
& the joke is there’s at least ten chants
& that’s a lot to remember / for someone who was late
to the protest / & walked past the ghosts of slave patrollers
& we begin marching / & white students in collars are laughing
& i am offering my lungs to the hungry spirit among us
trying to hear the chants in the back of the procession
to make sure we are chanting the same thing in the front
& we are moving through the campus streets
& cars are honking / & when we reach guadalupe street
the city bus drivers / all black & tired / are waving / snapping / hollering / hallelujahing
& we are not met with tools of violence
& i don’t know what to make of that
& this is not my first protest
but this is the first protest in which my grief
did not become me / instead / my body leaned
toward my roommate / who organized the thing
& looking over / i watch her
dance / arms wound in freedom
a good gospel / releasing
from her limbs / & she smiles at me / & i join
& the chanting is loud & immoveable
& nobody dies on the street
& the ghosts pull this brief life
from their palms & place it in mine
& the joke is / one time i went to a protest
wearing a black lives matter hoodie & i danced
with my roommate / knowing
i was hated / & knowing
i was loved

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