Thrift store or Walmart coin. The Last
Supper on one side, Jesus on the other.
My mother offers her daughters
matching pairs, tells us to keep it always,
He’ll protect you, and pockets one God
coin for herself. This is her way to feel
closer to us, as if the coin could thread
miles, a cup and string
she throws her love through.
I keep mine in my driver’s door,
upholding my promise
to never travel without it, and so far
two accidents averted, one so close
my bumper could taste the seconds
before metal gnarled and knuckled
under speed. But we never hit.
He saved me again. The last
weekend, a friend and I pulled over
in rural Alabama for speeding, blue lights
lit and landing us alone on the interstate
with a cop and all the names we knew—
Bland, Castille, Crutcher, Scott—
a list repeated as often as it’s added to.
I couldn’t decide how safe it was to record,
to place my hands in plain sight, to hold
the basket of my lungs ajar for air.
But I didn’t die. I didn’t even get a ticket.
Slow down officer Derek Jones warned me,
and I slowed enough to collect the shame
fear handed me. Life means
recollecting, so I picked back up
the stone fear his white face weighed on me.
I was scared of what he saw in us,
not targets, but two scared girls
with eyes like emptied night.
My friend is not a girl though. My friend
leaned into the space between cop and me
to stop a possibility, but I couldn’t save them
from the bullet of his she/she/she.
If I’m honest, the cop was nice.
He smiled the way a father smiles.
Said my name the right way when I asked.
Didn’t write a ticket, or ask us to stop
recording. Didn’t shoot.
A good man. And still
memory sharpened the teeth in his smile
to fangs and still I couldn’t forget
his gun and still, ten miles down the road
trying to speak his name, my mouth shaped
slant, rhymed Derek with Garnett, as in
Sheriff Garnett Brooks, who arrested
the Lovings in their home and maybe
it was the hours I’ve spent with his name
but maybe it’s because every cop is him
to me, every cop a hound on prowl
no matter their kindness, their pity
biting through, and I know it’s wrong
to see white men as dangerous but I’m still
scared still angry still hating Derek Jones
for reminding me I feel this way.