I want you to be angry
but your anger scares me
You are not overly sensitive
but I have been sensitized
to ideas that aren’t there
to violence and black men’s arms
and ripped muscles strangling
the air from white girls’ lungs
overpowered and taken by the dark
I want to be angry
that I can write these words
without thinking
that I can spew prejudice
from my lips
with as little effort as breathing
I want to be angry that your dark skin
reminds me of that playground bully
who wouldn’t let me go down the slide
when I was six or seven
because then he wasn’t just a child
like I was just a child
he was a little black boy
and he was mean to me
And it’s easy to be angry
at you
because the TV tells me it’s okay
because anger begets anger
and if you’re already on fire
then I can douse you in flames
But I’d rather be angry at me
that I hold these strings together
when I want the tapestry to unravel
that I hold onto these scars
when I want my wounds to heal
because I want to be sensitive
but not desensitized
so I suffer by your side
for all the harms I have inflicted
for all the lives I have ended
for all the people I haven’t seen
for all the voices I haven’t heard
for all the hands I refused to hold


Unusual Suspects

Or, A Case for Chemistry

For KC.

It happened in the laundromat. Detective Dan Morris arrived on the scene promptly at 12:01 in the afternoon, the very minute his client, Jeremy Aubrian, had asked to meet him. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to Jeremy, the other three suspects had also hired Dan as their personal public investigator (as all four were under questioning) and had each, in turn, asked to meet with him at 12:02, 12:03, and 12:04, respectively. An unusual bunch, Dan figured. But they always were with cases like this.

So for the next five minutes, Detective Dan had to deal with half a dozen accusations of “Why’s HE here?!” or “Why’s SHE here?!” His answer to all of them was rote:

“We’re getting to the bottom of this right here, right now.” He spoke through gritted teeth, holding an artificial stick of nicotine between his lips. Smoking was an unhealthy habit, and his doctor said this makeshift cigarette could help him quit. He decided it was worth trying, since he’d much rather get killed by an angry client than a pack of ‘rettes he’d paid for with a slow week’s pay. His health? Didn’t care. His wallet? That’s where his head was.

Once the crowd was quiet, having finally accepted his ultimatum, Dan was at a momentary loss for words. There were four of them and only one of him. He had to proceed carefully, delicately, have the right one speak in turn, or else everything could unravel. He’d had his time with each of them. Now it was time to use what he knew about each of them to force the truth out of all of them.

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