DeKalb Station, March 24, 2016
I met Shapel early on in the project at 10pm at Church avenue on a 12 degree night. He wrote one of the most remarkable poems of the project. I sought him out and we rode to Manhattan. This was for a segment on Poems by New Yorkers on WKCR’s The Monkey Cage. This is a beautiful summation of our terrible problem: “To be black is to consider the untimely death of your children.” I posted the poem in March, but it seems important to repost, this time in video using Shapel’s own words.

the weight of simple questions
or the dark star
gravity of tiny hands
is enough to
choke on,
and beat back the burn
in your eyes.
To be black is
to consider
the untimely death of
your children.
There is no language for
why a life matters.
It’s logic is
The way one hand can
curl and leaf blindly around another
a brown finger
stuck in a bramble of hair,
laughter, squeezing the ribs,
Hurt so thick it
makes the day slow and
heavy and wordless.
What does it cost me
to explain my life to you?
To find acquittal
For my breathing?
To plead for water?
To question the nature
of my love, and pain
and hope to better
answer your own?
What should it cost
when we pay in children?
In years?
Simple questions.
Tiny hands,
enough to
choke on, and beat,
back the burn in your eyes
and sometimes find
yourself silent
and shaking.

Read a poem by James H.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *