A Different Type of Tired: A Poem About Police Brutality

by Catherine Labiran

A Different Type of Tired

We fear that many of us
will go
how we came
and crying for breath
our lonely will taste
like aborted words
tongues slowly
last lines
into heavy air.

They will take
chalk from our
to outline our bodies
as if to say
there is a lesson there.
They number us
send bullets that jump
like a hopscotches through chests.
They knock our teeth
into keys
their fingers behind backs
as we reach for them.
Those sworn to protect
remind us that though we are surrounded
there is no one here.

They practice with our pictures in shooting ranges.
How can they see us as whole when they
have put holes in our foreheads?
We don’t have to think to know what their aim is.

My parents worked
their backs into
question marks
and said school was the answer
but Mike Brown
only had 10 days after he graduated.
He put his hands up
and they treated his palms
like goal posts.
These offers are on the clock tearing down
black arms
we cannot tell how long we have been mourning -
when you alarm clock is sirens
you understand how noise can also mean silence and bodies

When we see blue and red
we know we could leave
When we see metal badges
covering hearts we know they
pump metal.
Even if we lock ourselves
inside and empty the streets
we will remember
Aiyana Stanley-Jones
was asleep
when they showered her home
in bullets
and punctured the clouds of her parents

It was just a toy.

Reports called Tamir Rice a man
if he was white they would have
called him a 12 year old boy.
Parents fear they won’t have
the chance to raise their children
before lowering them
into graves.
How can people hear these stories
and still question
black rage?

They leave the slopped
branches on trees
to meet us in the places we hang.
Adrenaline pumping through
ropey veins who needs a noose
when they hands?
When the world is asleep
who needs sheets to hide
membership to the klan?
The warmer the summer
the more the sun
melts into blood to stain
our hands.
They take our source of
gravity and open cells
to be our black holes.
They plan it while we are in school
look for kids with empty star charts
to line up like constellations -
and like stars
even when we look young with sparkles in
our eyes

we are already dying.

I wonder if I was harassed and someone
pressed record
if these cops would still walk
away with clean records
justice is broken record
that scratches and skips people that
look like me.
The red
circle makes us targets
the trigger belongs
to shooters
on both sides
of the screen
but I wonder if
we are shooting
blanks because those
cops walked free
after we saw them
choke Eric Garner in
the street.

These hashtags
are pound symbols
slanted by the weight
they must carry
so many
that they become
our veil.

I wonder how I will extinguish the fear in
my child's eyes when I have rubbed my eyelashes into matches.
How will I bulletproof my babies or
keep my arms stretched around them
when even the equator is an imaginary line?
I wonder if there will ever be a tap wide enough
to swallow the sound
of a fearful mother crying.

My under eyes are shadows
of my parents -
when they become leaky ceilings
and my tear ducts became basins for their tears
to rescue my younger ones from drowning.

Don’t you know that there are so many
different types
of tired?
And so very few of them
involve sleep.
After I lay on the ground
in a die-in
It felt like every additional
dead, black body
was laying onto of me.

Photo: Courtesy of Catherine Labiran

Catherine Labiran is a 21 year old Poet who was born in Staten Island, New York, raised in Harrow, London and is now living in Atlanta, Georgia. Catherine is able to infuse her diverse cultural experiences into exhilarating bodies of work, enabling them to live lives of their own. She was selected as a winner of SLAMbassadors UK 2010, a winner of 30 Nigeria House, and was conferred the honor of writing the official Olympic Poem for London 2012 as one of London’s “12 Poets for 2012.”