Baltimore Poems

Kelly Gallagher,  Pen Up the Pigs  (2014), video still

Kelly Gallagher, Pen Up the Pigs (2014), video still


from the street: a wounded howl,
fuck the police and it echoes from the prisons,
fuck the police
the anger which vibrates somewhere low
in their chests, weighted down
by one too many
unwarranted traffic stops
when the tail light
wasn’t out, and the time
they killed that person--
no, not Mike Brown, the other time. no,
not Rekia Boyd that’s not it either.
Not even Aiyana or
Tamir Rice. You remember now,
that time in the parking lot and they said
like they always do: they thought his phone
was a gun, the way it gleamed when he turned it
over in his palm, to text his mother back, yes
he would buy her some painkillers. Then boom.
he can’t scream anymore, so today
I scream for him and imagine
what he might have said
if the bubbles of blood hadn’t foamed up out
out of his mouth when he tried to speak
one time running away and now you can’t run
no more. How did it feel, to slowly drain
out onto the pavement as the cans and bricks
began to fall around him like the rain
he loved to watch from his window? the hiss
on the pavement and the small tufts of steam--
Did the screams sound like thunder?
Did the electric anger tickle his skin,
the way storms did when the air was so charged
it made his hair stand on end
because anything could happen
and suddenly the flash
that lights up the city
this world of cages couldn’t
have been made
so flammable
for nothing.

field notes on a rebellion

whole hearts hang in the tangles of razor wire
atop the prison fences, beating still somehow
in time with the blasts of car horns

four little Black girls walk
hand in hand along the median
they are the melody of this march
and the ghosts of Birmingham

her cotton scrubs shiver across her skin
as she dances, and the people scream for her,
even the little ones not tall enough to see
her hair brushed tight against her head,
the way her ID badge swings
across her chest.
she moves her feet faster and around her
they whoop, for these moments of joy,
the instants of weightlessness
as she hovers above the ground,
where people rest for tomorrow

we call to our dead from the streets
wind through the cities’ toxic mazes
to find the places where the blood left stains
and where once we would have left flowers, now
we build barricades

how many cities must we do this in

how many cities must we do this in--
wind our way through the city’s aortic contortions,
the prisons and the police outposts and the check cashing office
big steps across the potholes and squeezing together
when the police appear from the side streets
from the darkness like fairytale monsters
who always lurk just outside the edge of our vision

how many cities must we run from their phalanx in terror?
how many times stand over patches of pavement stained with blood?
how many marches past national guardsmen with their fingers on the
how many days of school pretending numbers are not meant for body
Today it was Cleveland and yesterday it was Portland and tomorrow
           it’s you.

how many cities must we do this in?
how many CVS stores do we need to burn?
how many blockaded streets to cut off their blood supply?

how many people in the streets before the whole earth shakes,
its axis tilted in a new direction

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Trish Kahle is a writer and historian living in Chicago.