Poem: State of Injustice

State of Injustice

Is a human life, after all, irreducible value
As you have claimed, or do you trade

As an acceptable price–for your power,
For your segregated neighborhood,

For your sundown paranoia indulged,
For your generations of looted labor,

For the lawless laws
That serve not justice, but power–

That now and then a white man
With a gun, acting under the full authroity

Of this State of Injustice–call him a policeman–
Will shoot down dead an unarmed black boy

And leave his body in the street
Like a wound in the earth?

I wrote this poem in response to the police murder of Michael Brown, after reading Open Letter to White Poets from Danez Smith. I could not have written it without first digesting Tressie McMillan Cottom’s essay Riots and Reason.