When Brother's First Son asked me
where it happened, where his father could not out run
death, I tell him the truth, but feel heavy with the
weight of witness, a wild gun shot ricochets in my
throat. He wants to know if it happened in the back
yard where his father as a boy once raced behind orange,
and sweet lemon trees, scrambling over warped
fences to escape bb gun games. Shoulders shot by other boys.
Brother was a big target. Tiny bullets pierced summer
skin but they smiled at the gun play with those they called brother.
These easy pains heal clean. They are not the ones that mark
some boys. Boys that always carry those scars, even after
wounds are no longer circled red. Mother tells First Son not to
wear his hoodie over his head. Don't walk to the corner store alone.
Be back before the street lights turn on, she says, just like she told
Brother as a boy. Are these the warnings Brother would have given his son,
knowing that sometimes it is not enough because some boys,
some brown boys are never just boys to some.
Previously published in Raven Chronicles.
Casandra Lopez is a Chicana and California Indian (Cahuilla/Tongva/ Luiseño) writer who’s received support from CantoMundo, Bread Loaf and Jackstraw. She’s been selected for residencies with the School of Advanced Research and Hedgebrook. Her chapbook, Where Bullet Breaks was published by the Sequoyah National Research Center and her poetry collection, Brother Bullet is forthcoming from University of Arizona. She’s a founding editor of As Us and teaches at Northwest Indian College.