Poem of the Week | March 06, 2017

This week, we are proud to offer a new poem by Daniel Evans Pritchard. Pritchard is a poet, essayist, and translator, as well as the founding editor of The Critical Flame, an online journal of literary nonfiction and reviews. His work has appeared in Harvard Review’s Omniglot, Slushpile, Salamander, Prodigal, Drunken Boat, The Quarterly Conversation, Rain Taxi, and elsewhere. Daniel and his family live in Greater Boston, and he tweets at @pritchard33.

Author’s note:

As I write this note, Donald Trump has just been elected President of the United States. I’m struggling to come to terms with that fact, as I’m sure you are, and figure out what to do next—and I am incredibly privileged to live a life where next is a given. I don’t take that for granted. My mother never worried about me going to the store or playing in the park. If I did nothing wrong, nobody was going to bother me; if I did something wrong, I’d be forgiven. Not murdered. I’m often surprised by how transparent whiteness is, how lightly people wear it, how dangerous it is. I shouldn’t be.


Trump Rally, March 2016

Tomorrow his mother
might have spent
her whole life
at that kitchen table,
hands folded over
the laminated
pressboard like a sail,
His father
tomorrow might reach
across the seat
to rest one palm
on his son’s flushed neck
and feel peach fuzz
glazing his
young brown skin.
Not today.


Today the guards escort him
and his friends
out of the stadium.
Foreground and back,
the crowd’s a wash
of khaki shorts
and misspelled signs.
It could be a ballgame
anywhere in America.
The way these three kids
jaw back to the hecklers,
you’d think
They must be Yankees fans
and glad-
ly toss a handful
of popcorn into your mouth.


Bolder than the rest in
his salmon skinny jeans,
though smaller
too, the young man
turns to the crowd
and flips a joyful
furious two-fisted bird,
smiling as onlookers bark
epithets and curses
and then a blur the blue


of someone striking him.
He staggers. Suddenly
he’s pinned and in
its pentecostal fervor
the crowd rises to
this, this
what they wanted:
four white guards
spreading a black
man’s limbs like a star.


The online video of the day
as if to say:
This will last for
as long as it lasts.


Today of the guard’s
knee in
his back. Today
of the crowd.
Today of the gun
that’s not there and
today of the gun that will be.
Today of the busted lip.
He’s calculating again
on the floor
what he can do
what he can’t
what he must not do.


The crowd cheers.
In the video
it is always already
done and already
begun again. This time
he survived.
Though tomorrow
his mother will have
been crying
over him
one way or the other.


Knuckles tight as jewels
pressing into
her eyes, his mother
is moored to a state
where grief and love
are inextricable.
Tomorrow, her son
may go to school. Tomorrow
he may appear
on the news. Today, he’s another
heavenly body
in this elder constellation,
one that has
as many names
as on earth can be denied.
It is a body so
common it looks
just like the sky,
just like the sky
that tomorrow
will carry some
other name inside it.