Before the Bullet: A Black Panther’s Sestina
Before I take my leave
I smile. It’s the only way I know how to pray.
Caring a lot about others stops
my self-love, I have assumptions
some can, but won’t believe
you can hear God when a baby breathes.
I tell my mom just-breathe.
She doesn’t want me to leave,
she knows crooked smiles believe
in bent words, I pray
minds without certainty don’t make me an assumption
if I’m stopped.
Men I don’t recognize tell me stop
nigger echoes through blackened lungs, they breathe
My skin, is what’s stopping my soul from leaving
and try to believe.
is useless breathing
like dying leaves
I drop my assumptions.
when I leave
my breath, won’t stop
through tattered lips I’ll pray.
won’t make my time breathing
a waste, I believe
life does not stop.
Living is a temporary leave.
Grand-Mommy’s 91st Birthday Party
Crow’s feet stretch
far beyond her mahogany face
white strings, pull towards the sky
a wooden puppet, celebrating each day
of breath. The body of people circle
like vultures, swooping down for a peck
before returning to tables married with glitter
draped liked a veil, onto an even darker floor.
Fuck the coconut cake
off to the corner
I stand, & wonder
if giant rooms can extend
for this moment to last
until the final balloon
joins its shadow.
Derick Ebert is a first-year student in the MFA Writing Program studying poetry at Sarah Lawrence College. In 2015, Derick became Baltimore’s first ever Youth Poet Laureate. Derick is the author of Black Boy Archaeologist (Penmanship, 2016), a poetry book that explores the boundaries of bi-racial identity, self-awareness, and young heartache.