Sometimes, when I take a bath and recline
in the cool water on a hot day, I just want
to be human, undefined by profiles or history:
my bath water is not the mighty Mississippi,
I am not forging my way through the underbrush
by moonlight in hopes of freedom, I am not marching
in protest of the next Freddie Gray, broken neck,
limp body, gray body after a rough ride and no one’s
held responsible. I’m not Eric Garner selling cigarettes
on the street one too many times to feed my kids.
I watched cops take him down like a bull and ignore
his pleas for help as he choked to death; his big,
black body limp on the sidewalk and no one cared.
Father of seven, vermin to be eradicated—
like disposing of city rats.

Am I black when I’m alone? Am I ever alone?

I remember the dead I’ve never known.
Sandra Bland hanging in her cell after
not signaling for a lane change; Mr. Byrd,
in Texas some twenty years ago or more,
won’t leave me. I see him chained and dragged
behind a truck three miles until he is so dead
his corpse begins to come apart.

Even in a cool bath, on a summer’s day,
all alone, I’m black as night on the sunless
side of the moon, and I can never forget it.