(Episodic Variations on the Ripples of a Primal Scream)

I 

I can’t breathe

I can’t breathe

I can’t bre

I can’t

I can’t

I.  . . .

*

2020:   Black Lives Matter

1965:   I AM A MAN

*

There are countless ways
Of lynching without a rope

*

The casualties were fewer than we ever expected:

10 Persons

&

1,000 Negroes

*

For every Black in college

There are a hundred more in prison

*

So many centuries on,

America still has a “Negro Problem”

*

My skin is my sin,

Sings Bluesman with the wailing strings,

My very life is an “underlying condition”

For countless afflictions

*

And the Media Sage responds:

Racism is America’s Original Sin

Violence, its inalienable companion

*

There is a common crime in town:

Breathing While Black (BWB)

*

Mr. George Floyd committed two cardinal crimes:

He was Black

He was big

*

Black Lives Matter

Black Life Martyrs

*

Asked Louis Armstrong, the Smiling Trumpetman:

What did I do to be so black and blue?

II

Black Life Martyrs,

Their voices rise from their untimely graves:

 

Amadu Diallo, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Botham Jean, Breanna Taylor, Philando Castille, Trayvon Martin, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd. . . . .

 

Any Hall of Fame

For Trophies from Police hunts?

*

To be and not to be

To wallow in want in a sea of wealth

To shout and not be heard

To stand and not be seen

To sow and never to reap

To live all your life below the Law

To be stopped and frisked stopped and frisked stopped and frisked stopped and. . . . .

To be told countless times

To forgive and then forget

*

Yess Sur, Yes Maa’m. . . .

Put them at ease with your Negro smile

Your low, low, bow and your high regard

That cool façade is your saving grace

The “Angry Black Man” is as good as dead

*

911,   911,   911,   911

My name is Sue,

Calling from my car in City Park

There’s a big black male around

Whose big dark shadow is menace to my sight

Please send a cop; my life is at risk

*

Choke-hold, choke-hold

Stranglehold and dash and dangle

400 years of knee-on-neck

*

Our Police know their oath:

To serve

&

To protect

*

The Police Chief took a knee

The Sheriff followed in tow

Is this a genuine genuflection

To Kaepernick’s treason

Or patronising bribe of momentary appeasement?

*

And the Emperor snarls

From the bunker of his White Castle

Vowing “vicious dogs and ominous weapons”

Rolling in guns to “dominate the streets”

His unhappy nation now his “battlespace”

*

Black Lives Matter

Black Life Martyrs

*

Asked Louis Armstrong, the smiling Trumpetman:

What did I do to be so black and blue?

*

I can’t breathe

I can’t breathe

I can’t bre. . . . .

I.  . . .

Niyi Osundare, one of Africa’s foremost poets, was until recently a Distinguished Professor of the University of New Orleans (UNO), where he taught in the English Department.