February 21, 1965
In the movie, it happens in slow motion.
One moment, he’s speaking behind a podium,
teeth gleaming, glasses high on his nose—
the next, silence. He sees them enter:
four men, black suits, gloves, and berets.
Hands clenching gun grips. He knows.
Allah warned him his death would be
violent, that men with loud voices
and credible rage do not live long lives.
In the movie, he is braver than Jesus,
so says nothing. Almost smiles at the sound
of the first rack slide.
In the book, the scene plays out like déjà vu:
Black body, dead, prostrate and heavy.
Malcolm’s death is every Black man’s death:
early, frequent, expected.
I shuffle the years and names like cards—
here X, here King, here Till, here Garner,
here Brown, here Martin, here Simmons,
here Prince—Well. Not yet, anyway.
I’m afraid to love a Black man too fiercely,
weaker than Betty or Coretta.
I cannot fathom lifting a sweet face
into my lap, clutching limp fingers.
I’ve seen the movie. I watch the news.
History says loud angry men do not live long lives.
Neither do Black ones with Skittles or eyes.
Monica Prince received her M.F.A in Creative Writing with a focus in poetry from Georgia College & State University in 2015, and her B.A. in English from Knox College in 2012. Her work is published with Madcap Review and the Agnes Scott 2014 Writers Festival. Her choreopoem, TESTIFY, is being produced by the CutOut Theater in Brooklyn this December. She works, writes, and performs in Denver, CO where she lives with her pug, Otis. To read more of Monica’s work, you can check out her website or email her. You can also find her on twitter.
Illustration by Taylor Mobley (website).