Volume 34, Number 3

elite and insignificant

night grants us anonymity 
as we walk past the deafening ambulance
sirens and blinding white, red and blue
swirling lights on police vehicles
another black body on a stretcher 
with a white sheet covering his crime 
of being born black
disinheriting his right to live
our lives are short lived here
we pour out some vodka for the ones 
who are no longer with us
then drink up next time   it might be us
newscasters on every channel say
we are subhuman 
monsters and savages in every
newspaper article
it reads like yesterday’s news
our blackness broadcasted to fame
not the good type though
under the threat of a bloodstained yellow banana moon 
in the eerie dark silence stars cut like blades in our eyes
then dull and die slowly
while the city is chanting, begging, pleading
and protesting for our lives
telling the world we matter
the five of us, like professional outlaws
climb the wired fence 
and break into the closed swimming pool
two blocks away on boyland street
between livonia and dumont avenues in East New York
it’s so quiet, we forget we’re in one of the 
roughest parts of new york city
we were born here. We live here. we belong here.
we’ll die here
the world won’t get much bigger than this for us
we wear our charcoal skin like embellished robes
shimmer royalty in the darkness
our eyes are jewels glimmering
we are invisible and invincible
We mount the fence 
as if it's our rightful throne
the vacant lot next to the pool is
where we do our drug deals                                                          
this is our territory
our turf 
we own these streets
we are kings here
we dive recklessly off the diving board
into the water yelling obscenities
and get drunk on the chlorine
sapphire shadows target our ebony faces
like sharpshooters
we crown our heads in the aquamarine water
nobility drips from our brow and afros as we
splash laughter and silver liquid glitter on 
our faces and backs
we are shivering diamonds   sparkling
olympic swimmers in a constant, 
unchanging pool of notoriety
unbeknownst to the world
we are free here
not even our mothers know
our magnificence and how 
elite and insignificant
we really are

—Denise Sutherland