Baltimore burns

Baltimore burns
The streets of the city burn me
I could walk through the real flames and they wouldn’t touch me
They are no match for the crepitation of scorching flesh
Baltimore burns a hole in my heart
An open wound of widening edges
A long, winding gash that no longer bleeds
It has bled too long
I wonder how it withstands the next, the always next
A black mother slaps a black son
The audience applauds, as the gladiators fight off the lions
A black mother fearfully slaps a black son away from
The audience parades her: that is how you treat a black child
A black mother drags her black son from the light
The audience makes a mockery of her with their applause
The audience reads what it has taught
Or so it thinks
The audience claps on her fear, her terror
I don’t know that black mother, but don’t I?
Don’t I know the beatings of a black son before the white master
To save him from the master’s beating
Don’t I know the teaching of submission and unquestioning respect
To those who least deserve it
Because assertiveness is a road of no return
Don’t I know the silent, hidden cry of that Negro woman
As she emasculates her black son to protect him
The cry that, somehow, holds a hope somewhere
“as long as he is alive, as long as he is alive”
Whatever being alive may mean
Don’t I know that only those much too brave
Those I am not
Slit the black son’s throat because there are limits to what living is
There are limits to God
I don’t know that black woman.
Then she spoke. She said what we, black mothers, knew.

I want my son alive.

– Isabel M. Estrada-Portales

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