Three Poems by Shirley Jones-Luke

A Portrait of Michael Brown that Wasn’t Michael Brown

after Ferguson & The White Card

Black outline on a white space          dots indicate entry path
of bullets
The body is naked.    The Black body is naked
except for the dark marks.
A caricature of a young man, of Michael Brown.

But it’s not him.               No outline can represent      a black body.
White space cannot hold            who Michael Brown was.
It looks like a target      at a gun range    a black body bullseye.
Not a boy. Not a man. A step above a stick figure.
Some might call it art.
Some might

 

Why Black & Brown Boys Don’t Smile

Yes, they are all-American boys,
black & brown shadow shapers,
trying to perform big magic

Yes, they are broke & powerless,
black like me, brown like foreign soil,
becoming bad asses

This is a social history of the
American negro, nigger, nigga, negus
naming bodies of unknown origins

Yes, these boys hunger
for electric arches illuminating
their true names like a torch

Yes, they create themselves
like artists, because they feel
they were born a crime

Of Forgiving My Father Without Meaning To

after Safia Elhillo

My reflection is my father’s reflection     stunning in their similarities
[pause, breathe]          Sometimes I can’t look at my face     memories
his dark chocolate visage                        angry, yelling my     mother cowering
[pause, breathe]         My brother and I would be in the other room
stiff. silent         We would breathe in unison   not too loudly

Father’s words would reverberate off the walls of our 1st floor apt

even the neighbors upstairs would be quiet when he yelled

The silence was louder when father used his fists  [pause, breathe]

 

My mother only cried when father left the apt     She did not want

to give him the satisfaction       of the pain he caused    of the pain

she felt     [pause, breathe]       Years later, my brother and I are adults,

with our own families         Mother is dead. [pause, breathe]

 

Father is dead.   Men are a violent lot.   My father

a violent man   under   educated    rural Southern Georgia town

denied opportunities      due to the color of his skin

My mother born in South Carolina     raised in Brooklyn

When they met       both were seeking saviors     but only one could

be saved     My mother told us, “Do better than me.”

My father showed us – do better than him.

 

Image Credit: Original graduation photograph of Michael Brown taken by Elcardo Anthony. 

About the author

Shirley Jones-Luke

Shirley Jones-Luke is a poet and a writer. Ms. Luke lives in Boston, Mass. Shirley has an MA from UMass Boston and an MFA from Emerson College. Her work has appeared in Adanna, BlazeVOX, Deluge and Willawaw. She was a 2017 Poetry Fellow at The Watering Hole Poetry Retreat.