Ravi Bernard

Pox (For Philando)

It hurts to hold my face together.
What I muster

for presentation
is less than truthful. Pretense borne

of survival,
blank check of oppression
in the steel-toed boots poised
to cave

in the teeth of a genuine smile.
Still we bleed


for this land, but she is unmoved

for Buccra claims
an exclusive birthright
that allows

no room for you and me. Rope, stick,

badge and gun –
His agents demand

their pounds of flesh from our women

and men,
our little boys and girls
to feed

the appetites of their cursed imaginations.

It hurts to hold

my face together.
No amount of cosmetic alteration
can hide

the scars and puckered

The grooves and jagged

from wounds rotting
well past expiration dates. Wasteland

for pockmarks
and pustuled misalignments…

It hurts to hold my face together –
and if I can’t, what will I tell

them? How will I arm my children sitting
quietly in the adjoining room waiting


for the next phase to begin

as a pestilence devours

the land, our cycle of privation unending?

What blessing

can I bestow as they venture


on confirmation,
that the beast – with sharpened


and blood-stained

teeth – still roams?