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poem for derek/trayvon - Daren Colbert

CW: Violence and Death

containing text by Greg Botelho

Trayvon Martin walked into a 7-Eleven in Sanford, Florida—

a bag of Skittles, a can of Arizona iced tea. With the hood

from his dark gray sweatshirt over his head,

he walked up to the counter, reached deep into his pants’ pockets,

paid the clerk, then walked out.

This would be the last image the 17-year-old’s loved ones would have of him / alive.

He was seventeen.

A child of my mother, but a man to the world. To come of age

is to be drafted into a war that is waged behind the eyes & tongue. To learn

that the sharpness of your words can never transcend the face that holds them.

My brother has built a body

around disdain—

each fiber of flesh too thick to puncture.

Police arrived / Trayvon face down

a fatal bullet wound to the chest. A plastic bag,

brought by a neighbor, was used to seal it.

Firefighters and EMS arrived at 7:27pm

to continue to try to save him.

I often wonder if anyone would help my brother as he lay dying. If a neighbor

would rifle through their cabinet—the one below the sink—grab the bag balled up

in the corner with Thank You’s stamped across the center & seal a wound that will never stop


& what of the men who bruise airways and break ribs in order to give new breath.

Would they look upon my brother as he trembles in the stillness of the night—

give their very breath so that he will not lose his.

Would they cradle his face & tell him they will do everything they can.

Will they mean it?

Three minutes later, at 7:30 p.m., Martin was pronounced dead.

Trayvon’s body taken / away, tagged and held.

I see him, swollen, beyond the musculature layered like boulder on bone. How odd,

to only feel his humanity when it has left, or rather, been taken

by men who have lived by taking their hands to a problem until there is no longer one.


I stare down at his face upon the table and attempt to grow accustomed to this

new position, after having looked up to him for so long. Even in death, or murder, or

however they will speak of him—if they do at all—he still looks like a boy

mistaken for a man.

In the end, we burn his body. My mother places the urn above the mantel,

and we carry on with the knowledge that my brother has been reduced from a person

to a body

to a headline

to ash.

Even so, I ask—

will the body remember what has been edited & erased.

will the heart grow thicker in skin with each wound.

will his breath & blood birth

a revolt,

a revolution?

Or will they lay still like his corpse, his name

swallowed by the silence.


DAREN COLBERT is a writer and filmmaker from Missouri who's just trying to do his best. When he's not writing or making films, you can find him napping or watching a movie. Sometimes both. Okay, usually both. His work has been published or is forthcoming in Ghost Girls Zine, The Hyacinth Review, Moon City Review, Puerto del Sol, and elsewhere. He's on a quest for the perfect mango, so if you have any information that could help, please let him know.

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