For Jermaine, Six, Dead in Boston
Spent bullets sparkle on streets grimy with the thud of winter.
Knives bulge odd angles in children’s pockets, and any one
of their upturned words could bring us another you.
Promising harmony, Christmas carols blare twisted lyric
from behind doors wedged tight.
You do not stop being dead.
Thought it would never be again, but here’s tomorrow,
a snippet of unturned year, no blood spraying its pure slate,
no tiny wreckage splayed there.
A storefront Santa, yellowing beard askew,
one exposed cheek gin-swollen, still asks his starlit questions.
Not far from his feet, the chalk outline of your body
waits like a slap under the snow for spring to return.
Patricia Smith is the author of six books of poetry, including Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah, winner of the 2013 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets; Blood Dazzler, a finalist for the National Book Award, and Teahouse of the Almighty, a National Poetry Series selection. Her work has appeared in Poetry, The Paris Review, Tin House, and in Best American Poetry, Best American Essays and Best American Mystery Stories. A 2014 Guggenheim fellow, Patricia is also a professor at the College of Staten Island and an instructor in the MFA program at Sierra Nevada College.