“How do I know this is a gunshot?” (a poem for you)

(on 14 July, 2016 & with 9 Comments)

I am panicked and heartsick.

Trayvon Martin. Dontre Hamilton. Eric Garner. John Crawford III. Michael Brown. Ezell Ford. Dante Parker. Tanisha Anderson. Akai Gurley. Tamir Rice. Rumain Brisbon. Jerame Reid. Tony Robinson. Phillip White. Eric Harris. Walter Scott. Freddie Gray.

And now, Philando Castile and Alton Sterling.

I feel as if all of the rage and shock and sorrow has been wrung out of me. But every time I hear about another black boy shot in America, I am yet again proven wrong.

I am furious, yes. I am shocked and sorrowful. But mostly, I am… weary.

I am not part of the African-American community. Though I am oppressed in different ways, I will never feel the deep, hopeless grief that only black people could possibly feel: down in their core, in their bones, the way one mourns family.

And so I share a piece with you that I wrote the day I found out about the shootings of Castile and Sterling – not to step in front of black outcry, nor to silence the voices that so desperately need to be heard, but to stand in solidarity. I am not part of your family, but I am your friend. I have no gift to give except for my words, and I hope that they are enough.

If you would like to contribute to ending these horrific acts of violence, a few sources:

Here is what white people can do to support #BlackLivesMatter.
Educate yourself. Educate yourself. Educate yourself.
Join Campaign Zero.
American citizens: find your senator. Find your representative. Write letters. Speak out.
If you see violence, film it. Take photographs. Get proof. Document it – but know your rights.
Related: what to say if the police ask you to stop filming.
Tweet about #BlackLivesMatter. Americans, join local protests and rallies in your city.
Donate to the families of Castile and Sterling.

(If you have any other resources – please leave them in the comments so that I may add them to the list.)

Here is a poem.

It is not much, but it is all I have.

I stand with the black community. And I am here, always, if any of you need a shoulder to cry on.



I am standing in the house. I am looking around
the house. The house is warm and it pulses
in time with watching.

Today it is day three of the American dream.

Today another boy slept, and I buried him
outside the house with the other ones.

I am inside the house. It says: you are safe here.
But wait. This is not a true thing. It is a false

(No, the house says. It is a true thing.
The house is warm. Why does it keep lying to me?)

I do not think I have ever been outside this house.
Maybe I have, but the house is telling me that
I belong here, and so this must be true.

Outside, I can hear a sharp secret, like a gunshot.

(How do I know this is a gunshot? The house,
which is warm, says I should not think about it
any longer.)

All of the clothes in my closet are black.

I want to go outside of the house, but the night is black,
too, and the house does not like the colour black.

I am inside the house. Today
it is day four of the American dream.

Outside, a large animal

9 Responses to ““How do I know this is a gunshot?” (a poem for you)”

  1. I wish there was some way to change the world. To right all the wrongs that have been committed, that are being committed, that will be committed. I wish I could take away all the pain and sorrow and suffering and injustice. For everyone. I wish there was some way that we humans could change the way we are, so that we could actually live in a time of peace and love and civility. I wish, I wish, I wish.

    Your words, as always, are incredibly beautiful, Topaz. This piece of yours has me incredibly saddened because I imagined a young boy thinking like this when he shouldn’t have to.

    • I have to believe that humans are inherently good, and that we will resurface from all of this horror. It is, I think, the only way I know how to live. That, and poetry. There is always poetry.

      Thank you so much, my love. I hope that one day we will look back at this time and be thankful at its fleeting nature.

  2. *sighs* This is so beautiful and so sad. Everything seems like it has been sad, lately. I don’t know exactly why, but this part spoke to me the most:
    “I am inside the house. It says: you are safe here.
    But wait. This is not a true thing. It is a false

  3. This is a great message and a wonderful poem. I’m honestly ashamed for everything that my country has been doing as of late. I don’t even turn on the news anymore.

    • Thank you so much, Rachel. To be honest, I stopped watching the news a long time ago. I find it is only detrimental to my own state of mind & my mental health. It saddens me that we must live in ignorance in order to find peace.

Courage, dear heart—