This Playground (poem)

Leila Mottley

i hold Oakland’s hand
like we have known each other in all our past lives
like her wrists click for me

but some days her hand loosens its grip
so i hold tighter
‘cause i am afraid if i let go
if i leave her
i will return to find
the lines in her palms have changed direction

Oakland never liked school.
she was the one in the back of the class
building her own revolution
while teachers spewed history that was never hers
Oakland knew not to take that shit
had too many scars to be called brilliant,
but the brightest cities don’t need streetlights or applause
to start protests

i always thought her a god
before i understood that not everyone
kneeled at her feet in praise
like i do
that gods like her be taken
have their skin brightened
their speech rearranged
kinda like jesus

and i am gripping her hand until it hurts
like i do not already know
i am losing
like i do not already know
she sees me as only a memory
as what she was
before they claimed her
worthy of the respect we always gave her

i whisper her lullabies every night,
tell her what the stars used to look like
before we were blinded by white
i say goodnight.
turn off the lights.
let go of her hand.