``Thirty-one, Keith''

Lisa Stolarski, 1995

(written for Jonny Gammage, murdered on Oct. 12, 1995 by 5 white Pittsburgh-area police)

When a dark Darkness descended
Upon a Black man on a black night
The Light slashed across the cheeks
Of a couple million people, Keith,
``Keith I'm thirty-one.''

The words rumbled down the spines
Of four or five million multicolored civilians
Pressing out of our chests from the inside
Like anxiety, like feeling the breath on
Your neck of an unseen enemy;
Like feeling the weight on your limbs
Of a five headed beast;
Like feeling the law of the land
In a ten boot beating.

We heard him, Keith, We heard him gasp,
His teeth scraping against concrete
His lips bleeding the words of his last irony.

We heard him, Keith, We heard him snap,
His bones blocking his air passage;
We felt his body finally collapse.

One Hundred Million of us, Keith.

And We heard you, Keith,
Heard your boots scrambling 'round
Ten boots searching his car and the ground
For something to cover the Swastikas on
Your Fascist Asses.

All of us, Keith, we remember his
Name and His age,
Tony Starts was Thirty,
Seventeen, Stony Bey;
We know there is no way you can pay
For the Damage

Because the list goes on and on
From Homestead to Homewood to Brentwood
But Jonny is the last Rodney King
The police will beat on the streets
Of this City.