Our Children

You are fourteen,
and despite the childish laughter—
the one smoother than the fresh coat of love
on a baby’s skin—
your mothers must warn you
that certain skin tones
won’t allow you to flash open innocence.

You are not allowed to purchase candy,
tell jokes,
or ring the wrong doorbell.

Certain histories won’t let you forget the present
or permit childhood to take advantage
of your fingertips.

Responsibilities follow you home
in warm booties, blankets, and prophecies.
If you had known that your existence
would give birth to a movement,
long before your feet hit the ground.
Before your mother’s pelvis
danced against your father’s,
and his kiss brushed upon her skin…

Did they tell you that you were born for this?

Did they tell you about the cries of Israel
when they reached into the heavens like hands
just as heavy as your parent’s hearts,
knocking against the doors of heaven
because too many of their prayers ended in question marks?

Did they tell you that you were destined for this?

That you had the freedom movement
stamped to your backside
like a receipt back to the soil.

Like your fathers had to spit their seed into a melody,
an Amazing Grace and Birmingham Sunday,
carving its lyrics and your names
into the history books of our yet unborn.

And while you rest
they march scripture on the bed
of your misunderstood self.

Listen to this poem on TikTok or YouTube.

Dancing Between Two Truths

Photo by Pixabay

I get emotional when I remember the faces of the children I used to teach, who are now young adults. Their formerly round and babyish faces have thinned out to resemble those of young adults. They provide concrete evidence of the passage of time. My nieces, nephews, and students are now in college, studying a trade, dating, and even starting families.

It serves as a sobering and bittersweet reminder of how fleeting life is. How quickly the years fly by. I see their bodies as proof and imagine all the years tucked inside them. I cry happy and sorrowful tears as I watch them grow. I weep both for the lovely persons they are, and for the perilous and cruel world they must endure as they grow up.

I will be thirty-six next month, and after two ectopic pregnancies, a miscarriage, and the removal of my right Fallopian tube, I may not have any children of my own. I have come to both accept and mourn this. I experience thanksgiving and contentment for my life and everything I’ve accomplished, with no sense of the need for anything more. And also a sense of loss for what never was and possibly, could never be.

But then, I look out into the world, see the children wilding in downtown Chicago (I find it interesting the usage of this term by the media, “wilding.” It is the same term used against the five young black boys on this day in 1989 accused and charged with raping the white woman jogger in New York’s Central Park), and see the protests over the shooting of Ralph Yarl, who though he lives, has become yet another hashtag.

And I ask myself, which is better, giving birth to a son or watching that son heal in the hospital after being shot in the head for ringing the wrong doorbell?

Which is better, knowing what it’s like to give birth or knowing what it’s like to mourn the death of a child?

And I dance between these sentiments as I look into the faces of these little ones. I remember them as children, full of innocence, and now see them as young adults, wide-eyed and excited to live in a cruel world.