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If only… a poem for Minnesota

If only…

Only if

the rows of humvees I saw

as I drove my kids home for dinner

were a row of mourners

making pilgrimage to honor his life

to lay flowers

on the concrete stained red

to weep

for the pieces of them that died when

one of their own killed, only if, one of their own

Only if

their clothes were black for the lives that matter and

their riot gear was turned back

into tax dollars that served

the people

Only if press conferences were neighbors gathered

to listen

to hear neighbor speak of the harm done

and to determine ◦ together ◦ how to make it right

Only if that good

hard work for all our lifetime

Only if

when he is laid to rest

we put to rest

these lies, this ignoring, this forgetting

Only if we rest

from this anxious perpetual motion

of protecting the nightmare

Only if dreams are planted in dirt and

watered with tears

tended ◦ together ◦ with care and simple joys remembered

Only if we honor the ancestors






Only if we say their names

say her name

say his name

Only if what is mourned in Brooklyn Center

is mourned in Big Lake

is mourned in Belle Plain

is mourned in Bemidji

Only if what is sacred in Bemidji

is sacred in Belle Plain

is sacred in Big Lake

is sacred in Brooklyn Center


Only if tragedy

is made living memory

Only if we repent, turning towards each other

turning inward

turning to a power

great Enough to guide us through and beyond

this blinding white lie

Only if we

collectively repair

the wrong of America’s original sins

the genocide of Turtle Island’s people

the kidnapping and enslavement of African bodies

the raping and pillaging of Mother Earth

Only when

if only’s

grow bodies




We gather around questions not answers. We are made of and moved by story, always in process, committed to compassion, and seeking simplicity together. Based in Northeast Minneapolis.

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Mike Rusert

Mike Rusert

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