Excerpt for Trauma by , available in its entirety at Smashwords



Copyright 2018 by A.S.Brown

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means— electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without written consent of the publisher.

Cover Design: Katasha Brown & Alexus Brown

Editor: Alexus Brown

ISBN- 978-1-387-97618-8

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To the person who fought for the people, Fred Hampton,

Thank you for your voice.

Your body paused in mid sway.

The choir stopped singing.

Your smile lost its breath. Your lips, dry and cracked.

You hoped it would stop.

Did it stop?

Your scream, a screeching frog on fire.

Did it stop?

Life is bullets and gun powder.

Life is bloody panties and wrecked cars.

Life is a high tide drowning you in the ocean.

You can’t breathe.

You can’t breathe.

Life is separating families—locking children in cages.

Life is a blurred vision.

Life is dead classmates.

You longed for it to stop.

Did it stop?

You hoped life, stop.

Life, the skin of death—

tears during and after the funeral.

Life isn’t dancing in the rain.

The rainbow has gone to the sunken place.

Life is cold chills and fevers.

It’s lying in shattered glass.

Life is hunger and hurricanes.

Did it stop?

You still can hear yourself screaming.

Your body stop swaying. The church closed its doors.

The community walked away. Your smile lost its breath.

Your lips, dry and cracked.

You prayed for it to stop.

You begged them to stop.

You screamed for her to stop.

You fought for him to stop—

It didn’t stop.

It never stops.

Life is trauma actively.

Life doesn’t mean sh—t anymore

“Life is bloody panties & wrecked cars…”

(physical trauma)

In secret,

Black woman melt

like butter on the kitchen counter

when no one is looking.

Strength and a smile for her children

feel like a heart attack.

Today, she swept

the punches under the rug.

Today, she cooked

his favorite meal with resentment

in her hands.


Love moved downtown.

A right turn on Ashley Drive,

second floor in the Rivergate Tower.

In his office, there’s a woman in his face.

A woman with straight hair and brown eyes.

A woman, he loves.

A woman, who makes him smile.

A woman, he wouldn’t dare break.

A woman, he thinks carries his dreams well.

He left her

with skin like a bruised apple.

Her eye, an inflated balloon.

Her lip split like the Red Sea.

She laughed at her pain—

Tried to breathe with a broken rib.

She told herself jokes about her bruises.

She left her crown on the bathroom floor.

She carried his insecurities and failures

like a child.

He apologized

with a forehead kiss.

The only man who hasn’t hit a black woman is God

No sugar




white strip.

numbers written down

in a notebook.

insulin, cold

near the butter in the refrigerator.

doctor said,

“drink water”




family cookouts:

bbq ribs

Hawai’ian rolls


mac’ n cheese

potato chips—

potato salad

cousin said,

“small portions”

small portions

small portions—

my flesh doesn’t want to change

eating habits.

the way hunger grabs my insides—

tell me:




eat more.

drink water

drink water—

my body, hot like grandmother’s house with no a.c.

small bomb fires within my skin.

more water.

more heat.

more water.

more heat.

slurred language

i cried with my son’s voice:

“help me”

“help me”

“help me”

the sun laid on my stomach—

slurred language


my heart, Jesse Owens

racing inside of me.

my aunt’s face, stiff

shocked at my body.

she rocked me in her arms

like an overcooked noodle.


weakness, blurred vision

baby cooing



my body cried for rest.

my fears and questions

wanted my mother

wanted my father.

“do i care if i live or die?”

“i don’t know”

how do you learn to live

with type 1 diabetes?

you don’t

The sun pressed itself against my back.

My body, a bent wrist—shielded

from pesticide and mosquitos.

Me, a full woman—body in a fetus position.

My face wrapped in a red bandana—

skin covered in a hoodie and skinny jeans.

I work for $1.50 picking strawberries.

You complain about me being here— robbing you

of jobs you don’t want to apply for. I did not apply

for this life. Imagine,

a city full of crime and poverty.

I did not apply for this life. Imagine, yourself

being defined by others’ labels:





You don’t see the dirt under my fingernails.

You ignore the small cuts on my fingers—

colored in with blood.

You don’t bother to ask how much pain

my body absorbs daily.

There are nails under my feet.

My muscles struggle to find rest

on a wooden floor. You’re comfortable.

Living in your Barbie homes.

You complain about me being here.

You complain about the money I take from you, but you

never throw tantrums

about the free labor

I give.

Free Labor

None of them

taught me

how to take a bullet

like a man.

The streets never

prepared me

for death—sitting on my stomach

pushing her finger deep down

into my open flesh.

She suffocated me.

My shirt rapidly

absorbing blood.

Strangers, enemies

friends—circling around me

like an African ritual.

We just came to party.

I just came to party.

What happened to the party?

How did I get here—

outside on the counter

on Date street shot?

I was only sixteen.

The night I broke curfew

Ring around the Rosie

Ring around the Rosie

Ring around the Rosie

Protect your body, daughter.

Protect your body, daughter.

Tell me, if someone touches you improperly.

Tell me, if someone touches you improperly.

Ring around the Rosie

Ring around the Rosie

Ring around the Rosie

They don’t know you

have to carry the wounds. They don’t

understand your body is more than the victim—

It’s the crime scene. Your body is

the place, where the rape happened.

It’s the pavement, where the blood settles.

My skin is the white perfume sample paper—

His cologne stuck in my pores.

I smell him every day.

Wash your body, daughter.

Wash your body, daughter.




Ring around the Rosie

Ring around the Rosie

Ring around the Rosie

Protect your body, daughter.

Protect your body, daughter.

Tell me, if someone touches you improperly.

Tell me, if someone touches you improperly.

I’m fifteen.

My body is a grown woman,

who’s a virgin. You think

her breasts have experience

with being touched by a man.

Ring around the Rosie

Ring around the Rosie

Ring around the Rosie

Protect your body, daughter.

Protect your body, daughter.

Tell me, if someone touches you improperly.

Tell me, if someone touches you improperly.

Have a man’s palms ever unbuckled you?

This grown woman’s body, her vagina—

My vagina exposed to the night’s air,

grass, and him.

Sex is for marriage, daughter.

Sex is for marriage, daughter.

Protect your body, daughter.

Protect your body, daughter.

Tell me, if someone touches you improperly.

Tell me, if someone touches you improperly.


listen to this man’s penis


inside of me.

His weight—

full speed,


against this body—

against me.

Ring around the Rosie

Ring around the Rosie

Ring around the Rosie

I can’t


I’m afraid—his hands

are guns in tight fists.

I can’t move, mama—

I’ll definitely die

if I do. I think

this body is dead.

Ring around the Rosie

Ring around the Rosie

Ring around the Rosie

His breath in my ear.

His breath in my ear.

His breath, a mint of cigarettes.

Blood, mama—


He made this body







See, he screamed.

This body’s vagina said,

“girl, it feels like he’s stabbing me.”

“Girl, I’m bleeding.”

Ring around the Rosie

Ring around the Rosie

Ring around the Rosie

He put himself on top of this body.

He held my arms down. I couldn’t

count the stars that night.

I couldn’t protect my body, mama

I couldn’t protect my body, mama.

Somebody touched me improperly, mama.

Somebody touched me improperly, mama.

This body is my body.

Why he touched my body?

I couldn’t protect my body, mama

I couldn’t protect my body, mama.

His masculinity justified his actions.

He zipped himself up in pride.

Ring around the Rosie

Ring around the Rosie

Ring around the Rosie

I’ve never been shot before. But this time, I’m convinced

a bullet forced itself into my skin—pinched, pierced

punctured my lungs—shattered my back.

His body, an abandoned house; it fell on top of me.

He suffocated this body.

His hands, Publix plastic bags.

This body died.

Nobody called the police. I waited

for the ambulance to come. I bled in secret.

I became a woman


in a raped body.

Ring around the Rosie

Ring around the Rosie

Ring around the Rosie

“Life isn’t dancing in the rain. The rainbow has gone to the sunken place…”

(mental trauma)

Tradition is Thanksgiving at Grandma’s.

It’s the honey baked ham—

Yams and collard greens with a taste of hot sauce.

Tradition is poverty and infidelity

swept under the front door rug.

It’s going to school in secrecy

about the violence in your home.

Tradition is an alcoholic father,

who abuses women.

Tradition is addiction hidden

in the crevices of a mother’s smile.

It’s a single-parent house hold.

Tradition is an uncle Willie or an uncle Joe—

Big cousin Tasha, who touch Kindergartens

in between their legs without permission.

See, tradition is pain—it’s sin. It personifies

itself as good religion, but without Jesus

saving grace. Tradition is abstinence

without explanations. It’s liquor stores

on the corner of every hood. It’s blunts

gold teeth— block parties and family reunions.

Tradition is losing mama’s house to foreclosure.

It’s laziness. Tradition is living paycheck to paycheck.

It’s bottled up emotions. Tradition raises you—

It teaches your children without your consent.

Tradition is Satan

in Judas’ skin.


Have you ever put together

a black man— stitched up his back,

watched him decompose into an inmate?

Did you find him like a long bent living

room lamp outside of his grandmother’s

front porch? Have you seen all the glory

he once held in his shoes and shirt, shredded

into regrets and shame? His elementary dreams, broken

light bulbs crushed beneath polished black shoes.

Have you witness the exchange between him and Satan?

His soul aching to see his grandmother

breathe Jesus’ air one last time.

He missed both funerals.

Both grandmothers, departed ships

sailing to the everlasting.

More aunts, more uncles


Have you examined his body?

A rotten apple core in a wasteland

tarnished and exposed. What’s left of him?

A black boy disoriented and deceived.

Do you know what he has accomplished?

Prison’s version of manhood—

Did you know, he knows nothing outside

of his neighborhood?

He never knew freedom—

unaware of how to embrace its majestic skin,

He ran away in fear and frustration.

Do you know how to wipe away

an unstructured childhood and nightmares

full of domestic violence? Voices of bullets

arguing with brown bodies about life.

Do you know how to stitch up his back?

On his release date, he’ll come out

oblivious. Only knowledgeable in degradation,

blue jumpsuits, and concert walls graphed

with street names and gang sets.

He’ll come out ignorant.

Not knowing himself—

Neighborhood redesigned

because of gentrification.

Hope and normality,

strangers without names.

What’s left of him?

Have you prayed for him

not to die without knowing

how to live


The Black boy vs. The Justice system

When the stomach of the refrigerator

roars, you live in the jungle.

Black sweat

runs down the body

like fresh dew

on morning grass.

Her neck, black.

The sweat on her neck is

a glass of ice water, screaming—

chill. No iciness— her neighborhood

isn’t a rain forest, where the trees are

crowned with a chilling mist. Here,

the stomachs of the refrigerators

roar, she resides in the jungle.

Every day, she runs

near the end of the invisible line

separating black from white—

the divide of poverty and resources.

She sticks out her tongue and reaches

for glory. She thirsts for a pinch of liquid

from a white woman’s club soda to hit

her tongue.

Her eyes, tip-toeing out

of their sockets, hoping

to witness the coolness

of the heavenly city.

Her open black pores consume the heat

the gun powder from street wars,

the screams from mothers losing sons.

Being black subjects her to sweat—

Praying, Jesus’ hand of mercy

would wipe away the sting of the heat.

A weak breeze tangled

in her thick matted hair.

Her ears, large and round—

Dissects the sound of children

wailing for change.

She wails.

She sweats.

She waits

for the streets in her

neighborhood to freeze.

The birds can’t find shade in the trees

near the park. Everything is turning

into ashes.

The playground

The basketball court,

a target zone for the sun

to shoot sun rays at

innocent girls and boys.

Burning the ambition out

of their melanin.

She watches her friends

run and faint

run and faint

run and


but she doesn’t move.

Her eyes search beyond

blue lines

white circles

colorful dragon flies.

Her tongue cotton dry.

Black Sweat

What’s the description today, officer?

What’s the description, you’re projecting

onto me today, officer?

I never committed a crime.

My hands are empty.

My mother is molding me

into excellence. I never slept

on a thin white mat

in the detention center.

Please, don’t handcuff me, officer.

Please—My hands are empty.

Even the piss on my pants,

you won’t recognize the fear

in my belly. I’m just a little boy,

officer. I just want to go play

with my friends. Don’t you

let your kids play with their friends?

You thought, “he’s brown—

guilty.” I told you officer, I wasn’t passing

around a gun like the game, hot potatoes.

I didn’t do anything wrong. My hands are empty.

You’re wrong, officer.

You’re wrong, officer.

I don’t play with guns.

I don’t play with guns.

Ask me, who I am.

Ask me, who I am.

Even the despair in my face

didn’t stop you from

criminalizing me.

My name is Michael.

I’m ten years old.

I’m in the fourth grade.

I like to play video games.

I like to play basketball.

I respect my mother.

I respect my grandmother.

I love going to her house

until now

until now.

Your presence makes me

afraid of my own being.

I’m too dark— I’m your target.

Thank God, this time my clothes

weren’t covered in red liquid.

But you made me piss my pants.

Officer, you lack sound judgement.

You are a reminder of Satan’s agenda:

take over us. You think

we belong to him, but you do.

You marked me—

I’ll wear scars in my thoughts.

My body will always shake

when I see you. I think you

want me to fear you—

tremble at your footsteps.

Officer, do you understand,

you made me piss myself?

Why me?

What’s the description today, officer?

What’s the description, you’re projecting

onto me today, officer?

Now, I know the secret,

Jim Crow still lives.

Little Black Boy Trauma

All I can see is blue

red lights shining

inside my eyelids.

A badge

confronting my father.

Will they murder him too?

1:20 a.m.

The sound of the shower

Runs in my ear like water.

My eyes open with anxiety.

My stomach holds its breath.

My heart flutters like a group

of butterflies.

My father is getting ready for work.

I know the badge is waiting

for him near the post office.

Another one camping out

in the dark on Tequesta Drive.

I’m afraid.

Even in a green

Ernestine Produce t-shirt,

a large white produce truck,

he’ll still be their target.

Will he be their target, today?

Will they pull him over in the fruit truck,

again? Will they question him about guns

grenades based on a criminal record?

They’ll only see brown skin, criminal.

Under these conditions, I don’t know

how to sleep. Fear and concern linger

over me. Under these conditions,

I don’t know how to sleep. I constantly

listen for the sound of his truck pulling

into our driveway like finding the ocean

in a shell. I listen, I listen—I listen.

5:30 a.m.

I wait to hear his voice

drag on the floor. Is it him?

Is it him?

I don’t want to lose

my dad this morning.

Will they kill my father, too?

Depression, a stomach virus.

Depression, a friend who play

hide-and-seek with children’s

imagination. Depression, the one,

who leaves children running away

from coloring and housekeeping.

Depression, a monster under a child’s bed.

Depression, the stranger, they befriend when mother

tells them otherwise. She is a refugee. Rose is

a refugee in her own home and school.

I see her


with questions

in her hand

like an exotic beetle

she found on the playground.

Her acting out—throwing chairs

across the classroom is

sign language for help.

I see her searching

for her father’s hand.

It’s gone forever.

Depression, her father’s killer.

Depression, Rose’s reason

to kick her teachers. Depression

stole her curiosity and interaction

with her peers.

Her mother, an estranged

wounded widow with uncertainties

stuffed in her bra like cash. She pursues

love in brown men. Rose’s mother is

a bad song, whose lyrics have found

themselves in the throat

of her daughter.

She’s five years old.

She yelled


cried out for help


Dear teacher,

why are you still waiting

on breathing exercises and

conscious disciple?

Don’t you know how to love hurt out of a child?


I am too dark.

I am dark— way too dark

for your liking. I leave a heavy

taste in your mouth. I am too much

for you to digest. Black jelly beans, you avoid

the loud licorice color on your tongue. Too afraid

to hold them in your hand. The light colors parade

around—you chew them with pleasure.

They can give you cavities freely, but me,

the black one, I am an outcast. You only see me

as trash worthy. I’m not tasteful. I’m too dark.

Forget about the jelly beans

Focus on the color black:

Black roses

Black dresses

Black skies

Black people—

Every shade of black,

you demonize.

Black men, rapists and criminals

Black women, angry and hypersexual

Black children, inferior

Black hair, nappy

Black lives—don’t matter

Black equals death. It’s hard to dodge

the bullets in this world

with skin this dark,

Black Jelly Bean

A mother and a child hold hands.

The father and the sibling walk behind.

They make it to the land of peace.

Happiness invades their stomachs.

They smile with hope— 30 seconds,

joy drained from their cheeks. Detained—

Children separated

from mothers

from fathers.

When your skin, language, and worship

look different, you are a threat.

Threats are placed in dehumanizing


Indian schools, reservations

Plantations, cotton fields


These images banned from your children’s history textbook.

America’s Tradition

To the little Black Boys in my class

There are none.

There are no brown spots

on the carpet for circle time.

No names to call, no melanin

to be proud of in a small room.

Little black boys, when will you

walk through the doors of my classroom?

When will you teach me brilliance,

joy, and freedom? Maybe, next life

time? Every time, I see you

the mother in my heart


a prayer to Jesus for you.

Afraid, you’ll never know

what it is like to breathe.

Little black boys in my class,

There are none.

None to walk to school on Mondays.

None to teach how to love like God—

None to inherit kingship on the playground.


Little black boys in my class are missing.

Their names are on the attendance list

at the cemetery. Little black boys in my class,

there are none.

Too many dying from

gun violence, police brutality—

They are in timeout behind prison walls.

Bullets hang up their skin in cubbies

at the morgue.

Blue songs, I recite

for them like the pledge

of allegiance.

I left the front row

of desks open and

blank name tags for them.


one day, they’ll come

skipping down the hall

that praises the sound

of their colorful and

unique sneakers.


one day, I’ll witness

a brown boy saying to me,

“Good morning, Ms. Brown.”

Then my heart will worship Jesus.

Little black boys in my class,

I’ll wait for you like a Saturday

breeze in the South. Then we’ll

learn together how to live.

“Life is bullet & gun powder…”

(emotional trauma)

I am here, an open book. Page 19 read me. Reread me because deep

down inside of me, there’s meaning. I’m the truth you want to omit. I’ll admit it: I wanted you to make me your girlfriend. But I regret spending nights in your dorm room. I should have lied about my name the day we met. I should have walked away like those other girls.

Every time, I come across

your picture on Instagram,

my hippocampus presses

play: November 2010—

the Merritt C. Penticoff building,

Jacksonville University.

Your eyes picked me out

amongst the cold air. You

skimmed me over like a page

in the Odyssey. I should have

known you weren’t a reader.

I was too distracted by

your dark skin and straight

smile. In your thoughts, you

retitled me: Friend

with benefits.

My body, holy

like the Bible. Quiet

nights in your dorm

room, my thighs

were faithful to your

grip like Penelope.

I betrayed myself.

I waited all semester

for you to want me.

I treated my breasts

like rotten potatoes—

threw them away in

your hands like

my future husband

didn’t want me

for himself.

I was too caught up

in the character you

created for me. You

treated me like an

Aaliyah instead of

Alexus. Your interpretation

of me was wrong.

I was the book

you kept in your backpack;

The one your friends didn’t

know you were reading.

I was secret entertainment

for your horny thoughts.

Those morning walks

of shame felt like rape

to my integrity.

Summer break, I realized

I wasn’t enough of her for you.

My skin, too dark— my body

too exposed to you. Around

campus, you forget my face

was a metaphor for beauty.

You didn’t understand. I carried

modesty and knowledge beyond

my vagina.

August 2011,

you deleted


from your urban

novel. You held

hands with her.

I am here, an open book. Page 19 read me.

The ode to the tall black boy I met in college

Parts of her stuffed into duffle bags.

Everything about her is grotesque.

She hid the woman who use to walk lightly.

Her back is heavy like a Grandfather

clock. She has lost track of herself and

missed the bus. She waits for a man

to carry her loads, but she’s full of

unhealed emotions and war welts

on her shoulders from the straps

of her Forever 21 tote bags.

Bag lady

The children were gone, and we made love

like freedom was a choice. You looked into

my eyes like hope was there—kissed my lips

like you wanted to find forever in me. I thought,

“I wonder what the kids are doing?

I hope the baby took the bottle.”

This anniversary, we argued

all the way to the resort. Last night,

you forgot to take out the chicken

for dinner. You came home and left

your shoes on my side of the bed, again.

Tonight, you didn’t help out with the kids.

My period is taking forever to come on.

“I hope I’m not pregnant.”

We both hope I’m not pregnant.

She’s always complaining

about what I don’t do.

I hope she’s not pregnant.

We can’t afford baby number five.

The children are gone. We argue

out loud—point fingers at each other

like we are our children. We blame shift.

“You’re the reason why we’re stuck here.”

“If you would just do your wifely duties,

this marriage…”

I look at you with disgust—

you left me holding the argument.

I said, “I don’t care

if you don’t return.”

Tonight, I waited for you

like a stray cat anticipating

for an open door.

Silence spoke for us.

You yelled at me with your eyes.

I screamed at you with a turn of my back.

The bathroom separated us.

My legs were shaking

like a house near a railroad track

during the passing of a train.

The test said—

The test said:

“I’m pregnant.”

The smoke never cleared our home. We learned,

taught our children how to wear gas masks

to cope with the smoky air. We dared not to cough—

Vows, Petty arguments, & Pregnancy test

Sometimes, I want to be

cradled like a baby. My mom

left me to pursue her freedom.

Can you hold me like I belong

to you? Brush my hair with

your fingers like your newborn

baby boy.

Mom, do you know

how my heart sounds

in the middle of the night?

Do you know what it is like to be

a boy with an estranged mother?

She left me hanging like a broken

arm. Do you know what it is like

to watch my siblings with you—

How they easily dance

to your laugher? How soft

you hold them without hesitation.

I’m waiting for someone to claim me—

Can you claim me? Can you just make

me your son just for a second—a minute?

I know you love me, but can you love me?

Love me like a son. Don’t you want to see

me grow? I am a black boy without

a mother. Mother, please just be my mother.

I hope you understand how much I need

you to be a solid boy.

Sincerely, your son


Most of the time, you believe

forever is real. I thought so.

You know my all-time favorite songs.

You know how I like my coffee in

the morning. You can recite word from

word what I said when I proposed

to you. You know when I lie about having

a cigarette while out walking the dog.

This morning, you didn’t know me.

Your memory became a picture

stored in a damped place. You were

slowly losing the color of me in your

hippocampus. I became some man in your house—

not your husband. I lost the wife in you. In bed, I

held your hand and brushed your hair with my fingers.

I watched you sleep; hoping you would recognize

your life—our life together

our children and grandchildren.

I hope you remember

I’ve never witness

a black rose bleed

so beautifully.

I never knew the shade

of its skin could get any

darker. I’ve never held

my breath this long—

A black rose withering

away in the cracks of

the train station pavement.

Black excellence weakening

in each petal as the sun kisses

its hand.

What influenced a man

to cut a black rose so soon?

Was it the way her skin blossomed?

Did her presence cause him discomfort?

She belonged here,

but he took her.

She belonged here,

but he snipped her future—

placed it in his pocket.

She belonged here,

but he robbed us

of Nia: the black rose.


They said you can still

see me when the camera

is off.

You watch me put my head

into my pillow and scream

to Jesus to free me from the

embarrassment—wrapped around

my ankles.

They said you can still hear me,

even when I don’t move or speak.

You can hear me running in my dreams.

You can recite the songs whispering

in my thoughts.

They said you still know me,

even though I’ve changed over the years.

You know where to find my new scars.

You know what to say to make me

break like tree branches.

They said you still know me,

even though I changed over the years.

All of this time, I thought

I run far enough—

shot long enough—

pushed down hard enough

to get away from you.

I tried my best to leave you

in the shattered house, but

all these years, you were following me.


How long can you leave out

cooked white rice before it hardens?

Does it smell like molded cheese?

Does the texture change?

There’s nothing in this poem about rice, and it’s

decomposing stages—only violence and death.

Two brothers

One cousin—

One brother

from the same mother.

A white car, two guns.

A dark street, a quiet neighborhood

Late night joy riding

with black boys, whose

lives are boarder line

decease. This is what happens

when bitterness never finds

a place to forgive and rest.

Life for some black boys

mean poisoned lungs and Lil’

Boosie lyrics.


Bullets ziplining

across the street.

Death and Jesus

gazing at the brothers:

one brother, a passenger—

the second brother behind the gun.


The cousin behind the wheel

trying to shake the bullets.


The brother of the second brother

hand squeezing the neck of the gun.


Swerving, flat tire, and death?

A black boy died that night.

Blood brothers with hatred standing

in between them.

A black boy died that night.

Does white rice spoil?

Death angels came—

put billions of periods in your throat.

They held hands and kumbaya around you.

They watched you gag for life and mercy.

Your brain’s countenance collapsed

from being deprived of oxygen.

Weeks later, you were a period.

A noun in clothing unable to describe you.

I kept touching your flesh

hoping you would move

and tell me to stop. I wanted this

moment to be a comma. A slight pause—

press play and life would go on.

Life would go on.

My eyes put question marks

on blue skies and fluffy clouds.

Asking Jesus,

“Why her?

Why us?


Question marks hitting birds

as I look across nature.

“Why her?

Why us?


I put quotation marks

around your mouth—


for you to say something

I could use during hard times.

This is a hard time.

They told me to reflect

on the times of joy. I do remember us

being run-on sentences. All of our laughter

and arguments— Silent treatments,

inside jokes won’t fit

into these parentheses.

The semicolon failed

to bring us together, again.

My screams were explanation

marks committing a drive by

through a Pentecostal church

leaving a white Jesus

exposing red pews

and a grieving congregation.

How can I live without my mother?

Even though I saw her with clothing,

hair, and makeup—

Silence and cold air hold me hostage.

All I see is periods.

Death & Punctuation

I can still hear the onions

crunching beneath my feet.

The sound of the .22 caliber pistol—

the smoke it left behind me. I remember

you, Justin Patterson—my brother.

Your jacket blew

in the wind like sand.

Your blood settle into the brown dirt.

He fired one shot—

took your life quick.

Two more shots, he said was a warning.




combined hands and sat

at the bottom of my stomach.

Mr. Neesmith,

Did you ever ask me how I felt

when you made me watch

my brother become just a body

with no personality?

Did you let my nightmares

marinate in your thoughts?

Did you let the cries and the fears

of my little niece

squeeze your heart?

Mr. Neesmith,

you believed the American myth:

darker skin, criminal.

You thought my brother’s

life wasn’t treasured.


you took the first bullet for me.

The guilt ate through my shirt

the night your body crashed into

the onion fields like a car

colliding with a tree.

Thank you.

I miss you, bro!

My brother’s keeper

We gathered in worship.

Our hearts loaded with Thanksgiving.

We smiled like oceans.

Our laughers dangled over the table

like the breeze.

Our hands became key links.

We bowed our heads.

You were late. We said,

“Come on in, Judas.”

We didn’t discriminate.

Who knew you, Judas—

your presence meant open caskets.

You left us like mahogany caskets.

Judas, you brought

the crucifixion

to the last supper.

Pastor asked, “

Shall we break bread

before we dismiss

ourselves home?”

Did we know white

Judas had a gun

when we invited him

to our supper?




We just loved our neighbor.

“Come on in, Judas.”

Pastor said,

“All head bowed.

All my minds—








I heard your sandals loudly

tip toe toward the door—





settled into the white table cloth.

Our young brother, bloody hands clinking

to the ends of his mother’s brown dress—

mumbling, “I love you.”

Loving God while Black

About the Author

A.S.Brown is a South Florida native. She received her BA in English with creative writing as her concentration from the University of South Florida. A.S.Brown has always gravitated towards poetry as a way of expression and enjoyment. Now poetry has become her duty and voice.

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