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The Weight of a Knee

(Remembering George Floyd and those who were robbed of life by racism)
by Nilo Cruz
copyright- June 5, 2020

Pressed between a gasp,
sweat and blood,
the knee on the neck,
the weight
of sunken ships,
of centuries
of suffocation,
and haunted trees.

The knee
in uniform
made of law,
crushed the tendrils
of an already
buried throat,
as it strangled
the breath
of history
once again.

The knee
dismantling the air
that went between streets,
buses and shops,
covering in a grey dominion
the sky of another black man.

The knee,
known to stabilize
the posture
of women and men.
The knee,
known to be used
for the sacred
ceremony of prayer,
now profaned.

His neck,
the pathway of his spirit,
congregating the angst,
in the throat,
the hope that someone,
someone would come
to rescue him.
The first person
he saw in his life:
his mother.

His neck,
the road of his first sound,
and the most eternal word:
ma, mama, mother.
in the foam and the stagnant blood…
Would someone call his mother…?

Or was it God he was calling…?
Or would God come
if the mother called Him?
Or call them out,
the unlawful
with great claws,
who prolonged
the malevolent
pain in his lungs
and the lack of air
in his chest

Brother! Brother!

Rising from your neck,
hear the world,
the streets,
the humming
that surrounds
the dirt and roots
of your silence.
Is it Billy Holiday who sings?
Is it John Coletrane who plays?
The music rises amidst the din of cities.
A river brings it to bathe the living.
The hum that still haunts the bitter,
and bloodthirsty plantations.
The song that lulls the children,
the mothers and fathers,
the brothers and sisters, scattered.
All along this country’s walls, the humming…
North and south, east and west.
In every direction
of the treacherous seas,
and the Mississippi that flooded
from black and brown tears.
All along, in the midlands of those
who called themselves faithful.
Everywhere, throughout, the humming of the song.
The song over rooftops of greedy Wall Street.
The song under the soles of mended shoes.
The song waking and redeeming the dead.

Hear the hum! Hear the sweet hum!
It is your mother humming,
unlacing the buried pain
of the suffering.

To hear the poem read by Nilo Cruz himself, check it out this episode of Engage On Air


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