For the Fourth of May
the nation watches,
glowing sunlight reflected on their
faces, pressed up against television screens.
a garden party.
the land of the free
has erected a guillotine
and sentenced its people to their deaths.
oh, Lady Liberty is crying.
her sobs, getting lost in the laughter.
she watches, paralyzed.
her children are drowning.
they’ve made sure
they cannot cross the threshold of her home
and seek sanctuary in her arms.
she can see them.
shattered dreams sit, waiting,
inside of airport terminals.
they’ve thrown her children out.
have promised to make them sick, make them dead.
she watches it unfold.
the finality of closed emergency room doors.
of graying flesh.
of dying heartbeats.
they’ve stolen ladders from her poorest
so they cannot climb out.
at the hands bobbing above the water
like floating pieces of outstretched tree branches.
begging for her help.
crumpling to her feet
a shattered lantern at her side.
this is not what she meant,
when she called for the huddled yearning to be free.
for the crowds to follow her voice
and approach her docks,
run into her arms, and embrace her.
she wants to recoil.
in her name.
in the name of liberty.
“Na na na na. Na na na na na.
Hey. Hey. Hey. Goodbye.”
The land of the free
has erected a guillotine,
and the first head they’ve cut
*Rewriting What Happened in Twin Lakes
*The Retreat at Twin Lakes is the name of the gated community in Sanford, Florida where Trayvon Martin was shot and killed.
He asks me if I saw him too.
His arms outstretched,
he shows me the evidence.
The skin caked under his fingernails
from where he fought back.
He says, “He almost got me.”
I can’t think,
above the smell of sweet tea
and round, rainbow candies.
His smile falters when he recognizes it too.
The smell of copper.
The red stains.
Illuminating the holes in his shirt.
When he tells me he can’t breathe, I try to imagine
I can unzip my own chest.
As if I can cup the air from my lungs
and feed it to him, with both hands.
And when he looks at me, the fear seems to
tighten his eyes.
I know, already
I am blurring in his vision.
There is not much time left now.
So I clutch his hand.
I promise him it will be alright.
I will tell his mother
he tried to make it back to her.
And he does not choke on blades of grass.
And the last thing he sees is not the barrel of a gun.
In better dreams, I am early.
He brushes dirt, not blood from his hands.
He gets up from the floor.
we watch the moon.
And next time, I promise him
I will walk him home from the store.
- Jen Manalili