The Sound of Mourning

A rare poem I wrote about the night of the non-indictment of Darren Wilson.

Have you ever seen a man cry?

Have you ever seen a man mourn?

Have you ever seen a man so torn apart

by his grief and anger

that the shadows of night

are colored by it

and bend to his will?

I’ve seen thousands.

The moment the news comes,

the sound claws over the hills

and instantly

we drown in it.

A sound that my ears latches onto

in its unfamiliarity:

it’s a keening;

a raw,




that viciously

tears its weight

into all of us.

It rises over the concrete hills

of the highway and carries

over the dead of trees

washing out

the unsynchronized slaps of boots on gravel.

I stand at the top,

partially as witness

partially as participant.

A witness to this outpouring of grief,

participant of what is to come.

Before this night I had never laid witness to mourning.

Never laid witness to grief.

But on this night

it surrounds me,

embodies me,

ferociously pounds all thoughts of all else

as it decimates

all that is in its path.

This is the time they tell us

we are supposed to believe in our immortality

like gods.

This false belief should be our downfall

in the vein of Greek tragedy.

However tonight,

far sooner than we were supposed to,

we’ve come face to face with our fate.

In darkness,

there is supposed to be light

and we are supposed to gravitate towards it.

But this night, the world has tumbled out its axis

turning ground

into sky.

We seek out the obscure of the night

and it welcomes us in our grief like a prodigal son.

It surrounds

and enfolds us in its embrace.

And we welcome it.

But when the light appears,

we scatter.

We run

as its defenders come

to enforce all that is good

for we are what’s evil.

For so long we have been held synonymous

with the secrets

and fears that the night carried

and tried to run from it.

But no longer.

Not on this night.

As they come for us,

doors open as

speculators come to watch the show.

More faces peer from windows of homes

like we are entertainment on the lawn.

They’ve been waiting for days upon weeks,

wondering what we were going to do

when this day finally arrived.

For as long as we’ve struggled against them,

they have forced our association with darkness

and now wait to see how we will embody it

to exact vengeance.

But we don’t use the nightfall.

Instead, we use their light

as weapon against them.

We cannot make them feel

our pain in the darkness

so we sacrifice it to the flames.

So on this night

the city is illuminated

in our grief,

our fear,

our loss.

But no matter how much we sacrifice to flames,

the sounds of mourning drifts through the town

carried through the ghosts of skeletal buildings.

And long after this night

of chaos

and tragedy dies

this sound will remain

as our anger chokes the city.

And only after this long night

of chaos

and tragedy dies

as the sun rises,

does my own wail of grief

come ripping out of me.

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