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Sunday, July 10, 2016


by Megan Collins

Trivia Weatherspoon takes a photo of the mural depicting Alton Sterling following a July 7 prayer service and vigil at Triple S Food Mart where Sterling was shot and killed by Baton Rouge Police in the early hours of July 5. —The New Orleans Advocate, July 6, 2016. Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK.

I don’t have a poem in me
for Alton Sterling.
I don’t want to write
how they laid out his body
like one in a coffin
before they even shot him.

I’m sick of stanzas
and what it takes
to build them.
The Italian for room,
yet they cannot house
the living or the dead,
can’t keep people safe
when the locks on their doors
are only words.

Look how these walls
tremble. See how the lines
never line up,
how they cannot be stacked
like men
and women
in the seasick belly
of a ship.

Look how the waves
keep surging,
how the water still gets in.
It doesn’t matter
how tightly
I craft my language
or if my metaphor
is mixed—
there’s no proper seal
in a sentence; there’s no one
these rooms can save.

Even now, at the close
of what I’ve written,
see how much I’ve already failed him—
how the end of this poem
is only a period
when it should be an infinite scream.

Megan Collins holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Boston University. She teaches creative writing at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts and Central Connecticut State University. She is also Senior Poetry Editor of 3Elements Review. Her work has appeared in many journals, including Linebreak, Off the Coast, Rattle, Spillway, and Tinderbox.