Culture | Inkwell

A poem for Troy Davis

Troy Davis was executed by the American state of Georgia on September 21, 2011.  A black man, he was convicted of the murder of white police officer Mark MacPhail, though evidence remained inconclusive, and the murder weapon was never found.


there are flowers on the altar of my rib cage

for you, Troy;

not dead ones, not

the wilting ghosts of memory on the lid of a casket,

but live,

weedlike, opening

like hands.


not because i knew you personally, Troy,

but because i didn’t.  because when they killed you,

people who didn’t know you, like me,

had to open our





when they killed you, we





and little sparks flew out of our bodies:


the memory of mothers, whispering in infant ears,

whispering in accents, bad grammar, forgotten languages,

whispering through the bloody aftermath of



scraped knees

broken glass


“you can be anything you want to be, little one,

my baby,

in this country, anything you



MLK in grainy footage, proclaiming,

“Land where my fathers died,

Land of the pilgrims’ pride,

From every mountainside

Let freedom ring,”


a dream that i was climbing up the stairs

to the musical sound of


falling from my pockets and covering


and at the top there was a window

and there were bars on it

and down below there were a

thousand tiny

candle flames


little sparks that

flew out of this world when they killed you,

and we won’t get them

back; they

are yours now,  small lights burning

in the place wherever you are.

you became the difference

between promises and prayers,


now we know it.


i never knew you,


but still, there are flowers on the altar

of my rib cage for you;

not dead ones,

but live,

growing in salt water.


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