They flew in a flock that was black
against the heavenly blue.
—Virginia Hamilton, The People Could Fly
The night before, call everyone Black you know in the area
and make sure you hear their voices before you go to bed.
Call everyone Black you know where you live and make sure
you hear their voices before you go to bed.
Tell the young brothers to please stay safe.
Tell the young sisters to please stay safe.
Remind them to lock their doors. To not stay out too late.
And if they go out, to listen for the sound of their own breaths.
To remember that staying alive is also an act of protest.
Turn off the news. Sleep, but do not sleep well.
When you pull up to your job, hope today is a slow day.
That nobody pulls any Don’t-Start-Nothin-Won’t-Be-Nothin with you.
Not today. Today is not the day. Recite to yourself every
Yea-Though-I-Walk-Through and every Precious-Lord
and every I-Plead-the-Blood, that you know down
every hallway, every break room, every mail room,
every copy room, and in every bathroom stall you may go.
Wear them all like chainmail anyway, even though it didn’t work
for those nine. Make eye contact with your coworkers
but do not bring it up. If someone else brings it up, shaking
their heads in disbelief, do not take the bait. You’ve learned not to
call out any Pot-Calling-the-Kettle-Black, at least while at your day job.
Go to your car instead, to dry-heave, to weep.
Listen for the sound of your own breath. Give thanks for every breath
that comes from your still-living lungs. Look to the sky.
Envy the hawk and raven and dove—envy even the sparrow’s silhouette
against the clouds. Ask whoever is listening--really listening,
that next life you and all your people be sent back with wings.