Your body is a catechism

I want to know his name.

I don’t want to know about his mother and if she weeps, or if his father’s still around. I don’t want to talk numbers or how he fell to the ground. Don’t blame the system, the car, the window, the gun. Don’t tell me ’bout his hands—if they shook, how fast he could run. Don’t say he was an athlete. Don’t tell me his rap sheet. Don’t use the word ghetto. That has nothing to do with

the boy who sat next to me in school. We grew up together and apart, but I remember how he used to shift, assimilate, alter his speech, lower his grades to submit to the streets. The day he turned silent, his voice went dry and it made me forget the man in the sky.

Black boy,

don’t you know how far we have come? That you have eyes familiar and strange and feet that can walk the earth and hands that can lift up boulders and push past stone? You could cause cosmic fission. You could shackle the stars. Do you know that you have roots that stretch deep, eternal? You rose up from the clay, you were shaped, you shook.

The day he died, the television went black, and my hair was too much, too curly, too big, and the dolls were left out on the counter, and every painting of Jesus in church was white, and I forgot how to brush my teeth. I had to remember how to swim and I didn’t cry, because my eyes sealed shut against the light.

That day in gym I ran on a racetrack without a straight starting line and when the whistle blew, there was one lagging behind. In math class, I learned numbers aren’t equal—some are less than one. That there’s direction in distance when the damage is done. Science taught me we need sunlight to grow. Life is passing a test and if you hear the word “no” enough times you forget about “yes.”

Black girl,

you who blend with the night, with eyes dark as stone. You who sunk in the sand, stuck, who drew circles in quartz, your hands dipped in gault. You with the skin you tried to shed, with bones you broke and bent to the ever-changing tides,

you are living proof of God.