Poem for Ferguson

Cathy Linh Che

Who holds the gun

& what are its parts?

The eye behind steel,

the magazine that feeds,

the bullet which breaks

into a body.

In My Lai, women

were raped

& shot & tossed

into a mass grave.

The men wore uniforms

my mother would cut up

& resew

for our smaller

Vietnamese men.

My father wore one.

For him, a twelve-year


In Ferguson,

an officer fired

six bullets

into a young man.

Were his hands up,

raised in surrender?

Can he grow

wings to lift him

over the city,

over a grid

that looks

like history ––

its timelines

& hierarchies,

flowcharts with

arrows which point

from one cause

to one effect?

Behind the gun,

an eye.

In the eye,

a colored lens.

Protesters stood

on the streets

with their hands

up, cold barrels


into their chests.

Handcuffed, arrested,

their jumpsuits

like orange poppies,

or a monk’s robes,

the brightest

kind of fire.

Can we hold

hands hard enough ––

can we clasp until

our histories entwine

& our voices rise

like bright, beating wings?

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