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Tuesday, March 20, 2012


by Scott Woods

An undated photo of Trayvon Martin (Courtesy Martin family) at Mother Jones.

SANFORD, Fla. — Police have released audio 911 tapes in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed teenager allegedly killed by a neighborhood watch captain while walking home from a store. In eight chilling recordings, made the night of February 26, listeners can hear the frightened voices of neighbors calling to report screams for help, gunfire and then that someone was dead. – Huffington Post 3/16/2012

“Allegedly killed” must mean
someone is allegedly dead.
I didn’t see the body, so I guess that’s possible,
except there is a woman on television
who swears up and down
her son was shot.
Not allegedly. Shot for real.
And dead. Quite dead, for real.
Of course, she wasn’t there either.
All she saw was a body.
We assume.

Perhaps we assume he was killed,
assume the worst, like we desire to jump
to these conclusions. To what end?
To move on? To get to the forgetting part?
Allegedly, someone stopped living.
Ergo, what? Nothing is true until someone says it is.
Body can’t speak for itself.
Body’s just a guess.
You weren’t there.
Bullets don’t mean anything.
The only thing that matters
is the truth you can prove.

We can prove dead.
We can prove bullet.
We can prove child.
We can prove pocket full of Skittles,
a hand full of iced tea.
We can prove pleading for one’s life,
but not that life. That life is alleged.
Have yet to verify that life.
Could have been anyone passing through,
pleading for their lives on a Sunday night.
You can’t prove that.
We can prove only
Only bullet.
Only child and Skittles and sweet tea.
That is the truth you can prove.

The truth is: I don’t even look at the pictures anymore.
Already seen that album, know there will be
a dozen pictures of him ten years old,
smiling, not at all like the kids I see everyday
who hate everything, wear disinterest like
school uniforms. Family don’t got none of those.

One picture will be a Halloween costume.
One will be so young you won’t even recognize
the alleged victim, just the wood paneling
in the living room that is, yes, that old.
One, two little league football pictures.
A picture of him washed in a kitchen sink.
If there is enough alleged mystery here,
enough traction for our attention,
there will be a picture of him
that doesn’t look like a black boy at all:
smiling, holding a stack of books,
his arm around a white friend no one
remembers anymore.
Lots of baby pictures. Elementary graduations.

Never sweat pants.
Never jogging suits.
Never that sneer that allegedly says nothing is worthy.

That’s not a sneer, his father corrects.
That’s just a bad angle.
His son never looked like that. His son
only knows brotherhood, candy vice,
only knows the backyard way to a convenience store,
knows now the plugging of a hairless chest
with a steel fingertip.

But then, his father wasn’t there either
even though everything in him
cried out to make it so.

We must assume.

We can prove scream.
We can prove cry for help.
We can prove gunshot.
We can prove silence.
What we cannot prove
never happened


Scott Woods has published work in a variety of publications, and has been featured multiple times in the national press, including multiple appearances on National Public Radio. He was the president of Poetry Slam Inc. and in April of 2006 became the first poet to ever complete a 24-hour solo poetry reading, a feat he has bested every year since by performing without repeating a single poem.