Articles, Blog

Suzi Q. Smith – “For Cedric” @WANPOETRY (CUPSI 2019)

November 7, 2019


– During senior year of high school, a boy that I grew up with was
shot at a local shopping mall. The next day at school, a girl I had never
spoken to approached me, concern in her brow, asking sweetly, “How’s your friend?” I was moved by her empathy. An exotic bird in a beige land of suburban track houses, I answered, “He’s still in critical condition, “but we’re all praying. “My grandmother is down
at the hospital now.” She, head bobbing, hair flip, smile, shifting into quiet knife replied, “Well, I still say if
he was a gang member, “he deserved to get shot.” (audience moans) This poem is for Michelle Albright, and what we deserve. (audience cheering) You deserved both of my hands
around your throat that day and the shaking I gave you. (audience clapping) You probably still live
in some suburb somewhere in a house just like
the one you grew up in. You’re probably married
to an insurance agent who played high school
ball and still reminisces when he drinks too much on the weekends. You are probably a banker, one of those predatory mortgage lenders that gets rich by
manipulating poor people. You probably have two kids
who look exactly like you. You probably think that
they deserve the best. Michelle, you never knew Cedric. You never saw the bruises
he or his sister wore to Sunday School. Never tried not to fall asleep at the all-night prayer sessions the adults in our families held in hopes of protecting them
from their step-father. Never prayed for him to get saved. You never curled inside the
kindness of their mother, never grew roots in
the forest of her song. You did not come to our
reunions or revivals, never heard the desperation in our melody. You have never been unable
to afford the arrogance of your godlessness. Michelle, you never saw Cedric smile. You never wept or prayed for him, you never tried to beat
him in a foot race, you never knew why his
manhood was so urgent, or why it cost him so
much blood to achieve. Michelle, I want you to know that he did survive, and that when he recovered,
he reclaimed his manhood the only way he knew how, that he was 17 when they
locked him away for good, and that the last time I saw him was at his mother’s funeral. We were 18 then. They did not unshackle
his hands nor his feet as he rattled to the pulpit to read a poem he had written for his dead mother, and all I could think about was you and what you said he deserved. Michelle, I still see his aunties and
uncles and cousins sometimes. He is his family’s phantom limb, but I know better than to
stare or talk about it. My family has missing teeth of it’s own. Michelle, I am a mother now, and every night when I
listen at my daughter’s door, I can tell, through the door, the difference between asleep-breathing, awake-breathing, and
awake-pretending-to-be-asleep-breathing. (light audience laughting) I have kissed her head and
toes, cleaned her messes, read her books, wrote her lullabies, taught her to ride a bicycle, and to swim, helped with homework,
talked down teachers, spoken to the mothers of bullies, spoken to bullies, prayed
and prayed and prayed. Michelle, I taught her to read. I taught her to speak,
to speak up even to me. I have washed and matched her socks, over and over again have had
to send her out into a world that does not value her life, that would tell her
something about inferiority and it belonging to her, about her body and identity, and it belonging to them that pretends that black lives are not
as carefully cultivated as white lives, as if she is not the most loved child that has ever lived. Michelle, (audience applauding) I wonder what you think she deserves. Michelle, I know Cedric’s mother felt
the same way about her son that I do about my daughter, Michelle. What do you teach your babies, Michelle? Do you know what a victim is? Do you think they always
look like you, Michelle? Have you ever felt like a statistic? Michelle, do you know the smack of a gavel can crack a spirit in half? Michelle, do you have a spirit, Michelle? We all deserve better than this. Even you. (audience applauds and cheers) Thank you.

3 Comments

  • Reply Ab B November 6, 2019 at 11:52 pm

    Powerful!

  • Reply Bola Fayemi November 7, 2019 at 1:41 am

    One of my fave poets, love love love her! And love this piece😍💓

  • Reply Brown Skin Beauty November 7, 2019 at 7:07 am

    Michelle's social media is about to be flooded with strangers dragging her lol

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