For Ferguson, Missouri

By: Jeff Tanaka 

He looks straight into the broken night sky and whispers almost silently “there are prophets on every corner. They come alive when flares light up the night. There are prophets in every suburb. They find their voice when police hurl death sentences into megaphones. There are prophets in every tragedy. They present themselves at the exact place where the guns of white power empty themselves into the darkness.”

And god knows on nights like these, there is no sleep to be found amidst the chaos of a young boy’s mind. But he holds himself pure, he has been here before, seen this cycle on cynical repeat for far too many lifetimes. He wanders out into the summer night and curls up beneath an oak tree in his backyard. He presses the palms of his feet and hands into the burnt summer grass, asking for any reminder that life still lives here. He feels the roots dig into his back. Images of Malcolm and Barack and the Unnamed Ever-present Face of Whiteness fall through his mind, all men, all with a cold gaze fixed on their face. Their appearance is punctuated by the steady rhythm of 7 bullets. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7. They play on constant loop in his mind, like a sinister track that he could never quite get out of his vision even if his life depended on it. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7. These explosions set the pace for a crooked dance to which amerikkka marches onward, forever. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7. Forever, at least in their eyes, as the conquest is never finished. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7. Nevermind, in another world these bullets could be nothing else but seven pristine wake up calls, clear reminders of the places we were never supposed to go. But not here, not in this world, not in these suburbs, these rude interruptions serve no such clarifying purpose. Young boy, wide eyes, searching in the dark, he knows that bullets like these will fall as silently as toxic snow on the pale sleeping ears where old money rests, just down the street.

The young boy drifts into a temporary sleep, the type where nothing is reconciled but at least his mind is permitted some freedom to roam outside of this physical world. He awakens just as the morning begins to show its first signs of itself. He jumps, forever cautious of the light. He remembers that the ways in which the bright artificial rays will come to reveal his body have nothing to do with neither justice nor consent. He pulls himself up from the ground, moving with the precision of a soldier and intention of a god. His gaze cuts through the known, insisting that those who meet his eyes are ready to dive into a different world. He feels larger than life, fleetingly ready to take on a people that seemed so intent on his own extermination. And finally, he lets the shots of 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 fade from his mind as he turns out onto the main intersection in front of his house.

Before him there is a peculiar silence that speaks like muffled screams. He is here, at the uneasy resting place that occurs between battles. However, there is nothing to signify an end to the war. The world stretches out in front of him, kept warm by the towering streetlights. The police are gone and the protesters have taken refuge in the early morning.

He stares straight past the concrete, and whispers almost silently “there are prophets on every corner. They come alive when flares light up the night. There are prophets in every suburb. They find their voice when police hurl death sentences into megaphones. There are prophets in every tragedy. They present themselves at the exact place where the guns of white power empty themselves into the darkness.”

 

Jeff Tanaka is a writer, spoken word artist and storyteller and works for the Asian Arts Freedom School in Toronto.

 

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