A gray hoodie will not protect my son
from rain, from the New England cold.
I see the partial eclipse of his face
as his head sinks into the half-dark
and shades his eyes. Even in our
quiet suburb with its unlocked doors,
I fear for his safety—the darkest child
on our street in the empire of blocks.
Sometimes I don’t know who he is anymore
traveling the back roads between boy and man.
He strides a deep stride, pounds a basketball
into wet pavement. Will he take his shot
or is he waiting for the open-mouthed
orange rim to take a chance on him? I sing
his name to the night, ask for safe passage
from this borrowed body into the next
and wonder who could mistake him
for anything but good.
When I wrote this poem, I was thinking of Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin. My son is at the age where he must be responsible for his own safety. We’ve had “the talk” quite a bit. The world is changing rapidly. Our preconceived notions of civility are being challenged daily. This poem is mother’s wish for “safe passage” as her son moves between worlds.