Nikkita Oliver

Dear Charleena–

I’ve thought of you
often since June 18 2017

Felt your name surface
salty on my cheeks
and blow away.

I didn’t know you
while you were here

Like so many
I’ve thought of you
more since you were gone

we’ve been doing this so long
we’ve learned to let go of each other
before we’ve had a chance to hold on

to this matter.

We cry
Black Lives Matter.

My shirt
Black Lives Matter.

The sign on my neighbor’s lawn
Black Lives Matter.

Even the mayor says
Black Lives Matter.

And still not much has changed
since you were stolen.

We’ve been robbed so many times
we expect it
sometimes we leave the door unlocked
just to feel we chose this.

Justice, they say
fell through the cracks
in reformed pavement
but they still refuse
to transform the ground.

Still refuse
to pull up the concrete
heavy on our black
content with a single rose
caught in the crack.

You can’t move
if you can’t breathe
it seems they prefer us like this.

My sister,
we remember you

Seeing how they gather
the trails of your stardust
how they try to wear you out
even in death you are living.

The walking dead
everywhere we turn
womxn in waiting
we hold our breath
for change.

What does it mean

when our stories matter more in the end?
when our end is the beginning of another news story?
the reel spins its wheels but the real story rarely gets told…

…on the KKK


they only tell the knife

only tell the bullet

only tell police fears of you

only tell the moment of death

So we never really know
your living
like you didn’t have a story before
they broke the flesh
wrapped round your resilient spirit
your body a vessel
for change

Now we must carry
you to freedom

For these babies
who deserve more
than cracks
in the pavement.

I want us to face your beauty
want us to say your name
and know more than your death

want us to say your name
in the fullness of your living

We are
so much more
than this dying

We are
so beautiful
just in our being

I want us to say your name
and remember
we do not disappear
we cannot be replaced with yard signs
we will not forget the blow
but we will not let it define us

Say her name
and remember
her fight

Say her name
and remember
her children

Say her name
and remember
her family

Say her name
and remember
her living

Say her name
and remember
Charleena Lyles.
Charleena Lyles.
Charleena Lyles.