Dear Alton,

By Ida Harris

I wish you weren’t a hashtag,

nor the heave in your mother’s breast,

the guttural moan of your wife’s heartache,

wonder in your babies’ iris,

new spector in your own home,

the latest nigga to bite the dust.

I wish my imagination could not conjure your final hush.

I hope my son never knows:

a glock in his face,

or thunder in his back,

or a slug in his bosom,

or a plunger up his ass,

or gasps for his breath,

or mercy for his life,

or hate pressed around his neck,

my tears dripping ‘pon his chest.


I wish you weren’t fat.

I wish you weren’t black.

I wish you’re kids wasn’t hungry.

I wish they wasn’t born.

I wish your wife hadn’t met you.

I wish love didn’t find you.

I wish your moms ain’t have you.

I wish blood never filled your veins.

Then you couldn’t be dead –

You wouldn’t be to blame.

I wish you weren’t the symbolism of hatred,

the representation of national mess,

conversation on today’s tongue,

the bounty of hunting pigs,

a nigga resting in vain,

mere stain on a concrete floor,

a cadaver on a cold slab — or better yet,

another hashtag.

Alton Sterling and Family
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