By Celucien Joseph
"Battle Ground in the ‘Gateway to the South': A Poem for Breonna Taylor" (June 5, 1993--March 13, 2020)
Who are these strangers in our Land?
monsters in gray invading the South side of
the “Derby City”; the Blue force from the Highview;
women in blue form from the Creek;
boys in black, leaving their body cams in the East side;
blue, gray, and black they wear in the River Side;
rough fabric of the Devil on the Cross, maturing their view, purview, and counterview.
Black boots and shiny helmets marching to the sound of the melody of “The Ville”;
bearing banners painted with dying stars and fading red and white
stripes, they walked in tight ranks;
bearing flags decorating with abandoned crosses and human skulls, they waged war in the riverbanks;
spilling petals of blood in the South side in one, two, three, four,
five, six, seven, eight shots in Taylor’s chest;
screaming, gossiping, and cheering after the fact;
How long, the black mother screams, will I mourn the wrongful death of my Breonna?
Who are these strangers in our Land?
beasts running in the “City of Beautiful Churches”;
spies of the nation who have come in our homes to take our fruit;
people who produce conditions of distress and tiredness in “The Fall City”;
Where do these boys in blue come from?
Who is their leader?
we are trampled by thousands of boots;
living in terror of their bloodroots;
inhaling in fear because of their bitterroots;
“they’re killing us…our songbirds are gone,” the youth rage.
The children on the other side of the East shout:
“we cause no harm to human life.”
“like a lion in a cage, waiting for reports and justice.”
“Listen, do not call the FORCE in BLUE or dial 911 for RESCUE.”
The elderly in the shadow of the East ask:
“Who will flog those who have shed our blood in the South side of The Ville?
The mothers outside of the Edgewood cry:
“Is there no longer a steward in the Shively hood who can do it?” “We will remember Eight for One dead body.”
In harmony, they sing a new song of protest, lament, and a lyric of hope:
“When you give weapons to the Kĩmendeeris, they smash and grind lives;
when you arm idiots, they will become madmen, coward-men, and men of no shame; they will hate life, life in black, black existentia in the city;
power in the service of urges, instincts, and patriotic zeal;
power is loyalty to supremacy in white and privilege in the Aryan wheel; at the sight of the men in uniform, we lament the death of our
freedom, our humanity in black,
and the desecration of blackness;
we eat in silence, mourn in pain, breathe in suffering, experiencing a
common anguish of City’s rejection;
we’re learning how to manage our common plot;
we try to banish the pain by praying, doing penance;
many young and old, girls and boys in black have fallen in the struggle;
at the very least, we should ask their leaders what these monsters in
gray are doing on our land.
We will lift ourselves from within.
We will rise above the battle ground in the Derby City;
We will resist the arrest in the Bluegrass State;
We will find the courage to continue the struggle and win the battle;
We are ready to defend ourselves like Ali against this new rival;
Our rebellion on the ground will nourish courage to fight the devils in the ‘Gateway to the South.’”
*** I wrote this poem for Breonna Taylor who was fatally shot eight times on March 13, 2020 by Louisville Metro Police Department officers Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove at her home in Louisville, Kentucky.
Celucien Joseph, Ph.D. teaches English composition and writing at Indian River State College (Florida). He is the author of many books and articles.