April 16, 2017

Chaun Ballard

HOW I SURVIVED

I stayed in late nights.
I shot late night hoops.
I perfected windmills
and tomahawks.
I let my knees burn holes
in her mother’s carpet.
I mixed Top Ramen
with blood sausage, Jesus
with mint juice.
I developed foresight
and bad omens, packed
Juicy Fruit, a sixth sense.
I avoided gaggles of geese,
murders of crows,
and uttered no language.
I left when it was time
to leave. I arrived too late.
I prayed before I walked.
I prayed before I prayed.
I focused my gaze
upon the ground.
I never gazed too long.
I honored my father and mother.
I had a father and mother.
I ran errands. I ran home.
I completed chores.
I didn’t shoot. I shot
the breeze. I learned to clown
and mean mug. I listened
for rain. I listened for gun shots.
I hoped to God they didn’t
figure me out. I didn’t hang up
the phone. I hung up the phone.
She had a nice figure,
so I figured her yours.
I locked the storm door
when there were no storms,
and if someone knocked,
I wasn’t quick to answer.
I moved away. I moved back.
I moved away again.
I remembered what to forget.
I wrote this poem.

Poets Respond
April 16, 2017

[download audio]

__________

Chaun Ballard: “This poem is in response to the murder-suicide that took place on Monday at North Park Elementary. I spent much of my life in San Bernardino. Our city has endured many hardships and suffered many losses due to acts of violence. With every newscast from the city, I think of my years there and the people we have lost.” (website)

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