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