Afro-Seattleite Fragment #2: Richard Sherman by Malcolm Friend

Ball batted away,
your body twists, stretches,
falls to the turf
and, as it does,
into a fresh drop
of rain—

Richard, you
are more
than hero
clad in blue
and black
and tats;

you are more
than Compton boy
made Seattle’s savior.

Richard, you
are force of nature
confined to 6’3”,
dreads swaying
like heavy branches
in a storm—

we beg
for your gospel,
some sort
of sermon
and you greet us
with the lightning
ripping sky
you are.

did you not learn
that saviors are made
to be crucified?
Did you not learn
we curse bolts
as they crash
from sky,
no matter how tight
we’ve clasped our hands
in prayer of rain?

No, you
are no force of nature—nah,
you just behaving
like a thug;
you just a wannabe
you just a thug,
pure and simple—
you just a nigger
like OJ,
like Tiger,
like Trayvon,
like all of us.

I want to tell myself
you are wrong;
is no slur.

Yet you remind me
of high school;
of the day
a jolt struck me
black face
in white space;

of the downpour I held
behind my eyes
as John and Sammy laughed,
all because of where
I call home:

Rainier Beach?
Isn’t that
where those wannabe gangsters

I want to tell myself
I was right
to hold it in.

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Contributor Notes

Malcolm Friend is a poet and CantoMundo fellow originally from the Rainier Beach neighborhood of Seattle, Washington. He received his BA from Vanderbilt University, where he was the 2014 recipient of the Merrill Moore Prize for Poetry, and is an MFA candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Pittsburgh. He is also the recipient of a 2014 Talbot International Award and Backbone Press’s 2016 Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications including La Respuesta magazine, the Fjords Review’s Black American Edition, Vinyl, Word Riot, The Acentos Review, Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, and Pretty Owl Poetry.