Say Her Name: A Poem for Sandra Bland

by Sagirah Shahid

Review her death until you are rewinding her name.
Say anything to erase her murder or why
your first instincts were to call a dead woman arrogant
for knowing the law. Playback

the arrest, she was arrested for resisting arrest. How
can you be arrested for resisting arrest? What was the crime
officer? It killed her.

If you are brave
look bigotry in the eye,
sly cat that it is, sly cat that is—Pause: say her name.

Racism will grow frisky the first time
we remind it. We see it. We have memories of it
flashing across the television screen telling us to
straighten our already defensive hair
trying not to die. This time

say her name aloud. Rewind its sounds if you have to,
unravel the syllables you have taped up in your
deflective plastic casket.

Editing won’t change the history of you
not calling upon America
to hold vigils condemning this terrorism
that policed her blackness. Policed her body. Policed her voice.

You assaulted Sandra on a loop.

You can dub over it,
but we won’t let you mute
our audio: Say her name.

Frame by frame
we will carry her life
in our mouths,
resuscitate her with our tongues and lips,
raise her up . Again, this time

lapsed history slipping through guilty fingertips—

how many seconds before we have to watch it again?
Sandra,for you

we will light the screens on fire.
For you,

we will resist the arrestment of your existence.
For you,

we will take up smoking again.
For you,

we will burn down
three hundred years of tobacco leaves
until we ourselves are fumes,
until the sky is blackened,
until every lung is filling up

with your name and you are singed---

exhaled, but never extinguished

and the scars
of your death, replaying
the marks of your life
preserving into our long-term history.

Photo: Facebook

Sagirah Shahid is a Minnesota based writer and poet.