400: [They will tell you that I was sick, that I was a drug addict.]

400: [They will tell you that I was sick, that I was a drug addict.]

400: [They will tell you that I was sick, that I was a drug addict.]

For the remainder of this week, we’ve chosen to replay episodes that take up questions of social justice. The outrage and heartbreak brought on by the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and other black citizens remind us that courageous dialogue about racial prejudice is critical to the survival of our culture. And we believe that poetry is a perfect vehicle for just such dialogue.


[They will tell you that I was sick, that I was a drug addict.]
by Dawn Lundy Martin

They will tell you that I was sick, that I was a drug addict.

They will tell you I died a natural death. Sometimes young people just die, they will say, we don’t know why. They will say I was lazy, that I could not work because of disease and just general feebleness. When a crime is committed by a white man, they will show you a photo of me instead and call me a trickster. In the photo, my jaw is slack, my hair wild. They will say I am unkillable, that my body resists battery by tree trunks, bullets, and years in small cells. When I enter a store to buy something I will be immediately arrested and then they will apologize. I am just a child I will say. Impossible to be so greasy and a child they will say there are no children anymore. Why are you so sad, they will ask me, why is your heart so weak? We’ve given you everything, they say, why won’t you flourish?

"[They will tell you that I was sick, that I was a drug addict.]" by Dawn Lundy Martin, from LIFE IN A BOX IS A PRETTY LIFE by Dawn Lundy Martin, copyright © 2015 Nightboat Books. Used by permission of Nightboat Books.