Two Poems

by Cynthia Young


April 19, 2020, Harlem, N.Y.—“cell phone video shot yesterday at the 145 street subway platform in Harlem shows a group of NYPD police officers terrorizing a little boy for allegedly selling candy.”
Tweeted @DrRJKavanagh


These are the days of Covid-19.
What could that mother have been thinking?
Her standing there on the subway platform
Watching blue police hands on the brown body
Of her son, hands that were not the brown hands
That held him at his birth? What was she hoping
Would happen with her words?  Was she hoping
Her words would have power, would activate ancient magic
That would release her brown son from the blue hands?
Did she think they didn’t understand who that boy was
Who was struggling to be set free? Is that why
She kept repeating the words
Like a command,
Like a mantra,
Like a plea?

How many times
Have mothers repeated those words
In other days? the Slave Markets,
…on the plantations,
…at the gravesites,
…in the courtrooms,
…on subway platforms?

Dead sons walking.


Already we stare in amazement
At scenes from just months ago
Of people touching, hugging
without masks,
without gloves,
without fear, judgement,
or suspicion.

When I stroll through my neighborhood,
when other walkers see me
and cross the street,
I must remember

it’s just my shared humanity with the world,
it is what I might be carrying
that could pass on to them.

This is what frightens them–
not my hoodie,
not my muscular build,
not the color of my skin

until we get back to normal.

Cynthia Robinson Young is a graduate student in English at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga, and an adjunct professor of Exceptional Education at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia. Her work has recently appeared in The Amistad, Rigorous, Freedom Fiction Journal, and Catalpa: a Magazine of Southern Perspectives. Sabiyha Prince is an anthropologist, artist, and author based in Washington, DC.  Her books and essays explore urban change and African American culture and her paintings and photo collages grapple with memory, identity, kinship and inequality.

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