SPOTLIGHT: Vice Grip by Mel Sherrer

Crowd Sourced Savior
—after George Floyd

I felt like this once before
at a funeral
one of my best friends
a heroin overdose
the putrid smell
of flesh and flowers
a mother’s red-rimmed eyes
the guilty faces encircling the dead
so many of us knew about
the junk.

I feel that way, as I watch—

—another Black man die on television
a knee on his neck, people all around.


I want a big chain.
So heavy my shoulders
dip when it sways.

I want a lot of chains.
So many
I must wear a turtleneck
to protect my skin
against the snow melt,
platinum and diamond
cold creek between
my breasts,
engraved with my sets
on the face of medallions
like stamped Roman coins.

I want chains stacked, adorning my neck,
so numerous no one could strangle me
in the back of a paddy wagon
without first removing chains delicately
and perhaps marveling at their shine
and maybe loving that shine enough
to believe I matter too.

I want chains on chains!
Thick links!
So thick nobody could kneel on my neck.
So many chains that bullets
will be caught in their metallic web
over my chest.
I want to be wearing my best chains,

just in case.

For once I want to choose the shackle,
the ligature.

—after Breonna Taylor

The scariest part about crashing
is having no control.

You are powerless
against the forces
which hurl and drag you,
unable to overcome the
maddening spiral.

You may know it is coming
or you may wake to the sounds

of doors splintering open,
the intricate shuck and click
of guns being drawn
your lover at the helm
doing what any decent man
might do

and you
ripped from a dream by bullets.


Black children die
from standard-issued
bullet holes
and the world wants a sermon,
wants plantation woe songs,
velvet robes, candles, and Psalms,
wants Black people to grieve
within the confines
of billowy church sleeves.

Let me come as I am, wailing about the dead
not a preacher, but an arsonist


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