issue 9: june 2016, Poetry
Comment 1

the black boy poem by Phillip Nugent

i must confess: fighting for liberation is tiresome.
the fists clench so long, fingers turn
numb. the eyes starve for something
other than black boy down-the-block’s
obituary; something more bountiful
than tears from his mama’s dry eyes
(she can’t cry no more). the mouth
recites eulogies like funeral-speak is
a first language; the interchangeability
of “black body” and “death sentence”
goes unquestioned. the skin tightens
at the sound of siren approaching (this
is called an adaptive defense mechanism),
but not long enough to outlast his good
name from being dragged to the ground
with him; not tight enough to withstand
the world’s gravity pushing down on
his shoulders.

tell me: for how long will every black poet
have to re-write this poem? there is nothing
poetic about death or black boys dying
or the anger that ensues. this poem only
serves as marker; a repository of names
of black bodies so that their struggles
will not die in my memory. we thought
this poem would fight. strike. retaliate
the definition of justice as “cop kills, walks
free,” which is to say he parades all over
your freedom. we were wrong. the poem
was just a poem.

maybe the idea was never to fight, but to
emulate. maybe this poem is a black boy;
his face smiling back at us; his beauty
something unexplainable; his last breath
one of resistance. maybe this poem is the
reason I’m still fighting.


Nugent is critically engaged in exploring multiple intersectional identities – such as Blackness and Queerness – through writing, activism, music, & more. He has been an avid poet since he can remember, & enjoys reading & writing poetry in his spare time. You can find him on facebook.

Illustration by Alexis Torimiro. You can find her on twitter and instagram.


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