A poem by Ashley Cooke

American Nightmare


It scares you that a black life could finally matter

a grieving mother might get justice for her son

and it scares you that all of a sudden

the spotlight could shift from you

to a place in the dark that has not seen the light of day

since you decided whose lives were more important

deeming everyone with a darker skin tone a thug


The ones supposed to protect us are the ones that we fear

our best interest is now in dangerous hands

that seem to always pull the trigger first

as scattered thoughts of panic inside our minds

turn into brain matter

if we don’t react to your commands

and our fear better not resemble violence


If we were to turn the news off

does our mind turn on?

it seems to me maybe all this negativity

is a magnifying glass

focusing long and hard

trying to start a fire in our nervous system

so they can control us one by one


Every argument we have over this

is a pull on the rope in a twisted game of tug of war

caught on someone’s neck like a noose

we are slow to realize just how hard we are pulling

we remember how politics at the table used to be impolite

but now it’s survival to know if those

in your home would fight on your side


How many of us reach down

into our bloodlines and grab the hand

of a woman as she is struggling to get away

from a man she loved and trusted

we pull our hand back in disbelief

and realize that we are only here

because centuries ago there was a rape


We try to shut the kids up

as we put them down for growing up

and having opinions that differ from ours

they crawl on their knees to chase their inner light

you stomp out their flame

while it crosses paths with yours before it can grow

to a raging fire bright enough to make a change


The 50 stars gather on the boulevard

with a carpet laid out for the sacrifices they made

to bring us entertainment we couldn’t live without

and the waving vets on the curb

looking for a penny left in the gutter

as we thank them with a solute at the ball games

as those we pay tribute to linger outside in tents and shopping carts


We worship a God who seems to prey upon us

unless we join sides with fascists

as they puppeteer themselves to save us

creating words that fit their politics

our neighbors welcome us with pointed fingers

as we seem to burn already

in a hell upon earth

©Ashley Cooke

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