what the bengal tiger said to the black boy

by

Jason Harris

after Clint Smith

They only see me as animal. forgetting they too
are animal. they only see me as something to fear
instead of love. forgetting too they are feared. black boy
we are in this fight together. we too are killed black boy
for existing. for treading land unto which we were bred.
blacklisted for striking that which strikes
us. all we want are resources. are to be left alone
with our own technologies. until we are hunted. left
for game. the world neglects to ask: how can we help?
what do you need? today are you being loved?
black boy ask yourself: today am i being loved?
we too are at risk of being shot before being
understood. before they think to ask why our eyes waver
in the moon. why our teeth twitch firmly in the deep
fat cords of prey. cameras witness our survival. we are seen.
finally. but only as super predator instead of something trying
to survive in a world that prefers us dead. that prefers us stuffed
with things that do not belong in us. that prefers us bewildered.
caged. tail thumping. losing blood. stamina. we too are bodies
without reparable breath. short-winded we take off
at the sound of a branch breaking underneath a paw.
we have allowed this world to make us afraid of ourselves.
we know black boy how important the night is
so have as much as you need. we know why you walk the forest
alone. why you avoid anything resembling human.
we know why you are afraid. we know why you are afraid. why you lie
in wait to pounce. why you eat 60 lbs. your weight. nothing prolongs life more than leaving so make yourself scarce black boy. for we both know well
there is no other way to survive when cornered into a mangrove


Jason Harris is a poet and NEOMFA candidate. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Winter Tangerine, TRACK//FOUR, OCCULUM, Longleaf Review, Wildness Journal, Peach Magazine, Cosmonauts Avenue, The Gordon Square Review, and others. He is the Co-Editor-in-Chief of BARNHOUSE Journal, a contributor for Watermelanin Magazine, and lives in Cleveland, OH. He can be found on social media @j_harriswrites

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