the daughter

                  after police shot and killed Philando Castile on 7/7/2016


it’s okay, Mommy. I’m right here with you,

I say, but I’m not there anymore. I’ve grown—

my fingernails long enough to scratch, pick


at every hair in my head. you say

he’s dead. he died inside the car with you

and me—I didn’t hear him or any other


moving around the apartment last night—

don’t own a gun. you say he was a good man.

he wouldn’t like my pulling


my eyelash, eyebrow, baby hair—in tufts

now. now, Mommy, it’s okay. I know you

remember me with hair, braids with colored,


plastic barrettes settled at the top, nested

in black—waves of lotioned hair, then—

my braids undone, and the hair tie, loosed so


like everything else that comes after this

disease. they say it is compulsive, signaling

unease, but I can’t seem to get to the root.


its habit—to pull past pain—to remove

something from me. it’s okay, Mommy.

I’m right here with you. they tell me


it is reversible—something that can be

treated like wood—which can keep

a structure beautiful and sound for years.


when building a thing to stand for a while—

the body of a man, for instance—to stand

without talking back, as some have, it is best


to use pressure. according to the pamphlet

on my kitchen counter, these walls are not

crawling with insects. it says our building is


protected and treated by people I can’t seem

to name, but I know I heard him, Mommy.

I hear him. do you?


*previous version of this poem published in Unlikely Stories