“Roll Call for Michael Brown” by Jason McCall

Jason McCall


It will happen,
an honest mistake
in a hot August classroom.

Someone will blink
at the name and swear this
“Michael Brown” can’t be

that “Michael Brown.” Or someone
will be too busy with her head down
finishing syllabi to look up and see the flash

grenades and tear
gas. Someone will be running
late, his mind on the cops

that will probably ticket him
for not having a permit.
Someone won’t see why a name

is such a big deal. Someone will
read his name like the next item on a list
of groceries and move to the next student

before the first groan rumbles
through the stale Missouri air.
Someone will start to speak

his name and then cover his mouth
like a Roman priest closing Janus’s door
and praying all the violence of the world will stop

short of his porch. Someone will ask,
“Michael Brown? Is Michael Brown here?”
and we will all have to answer.

Poets Respond
August 17, 2014


Jason McCall: “This poem was inspired by the death of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teen killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri. His death is one of the many recent cases of unarmed black males dying at the hands of police officers. He was scheduled to begin the college this semester.”

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