Rana Bitar

The Shades Of Black
For George Floyd
Nine minutes. Long enough for history to unfold before the eyes
Long enough to squeeze forgetting out of collective sleepy lungs
one breath at a time
Enough to display the scenes hidden behind the dust
the murders tucked in two-page reports in a folder in a cabinet in a room in the basement of some
guarded fortified courts.

Nine minutes. Long enough to slash open the cocoon
Long enough to wake the giants in the caves
Long enough to stretch from pole to pole
circle around the equator—like a mouth
opened aghast,  nothing to say except
I can’t breathe
Nine minutes. Long enough to melt the layer of paint coating the murals we’re told to obey
Long enough to reconstruct the faces of the secret servicemen who stood by the door of my college dorm
Long enough to whisper the names of the girls, slain in the name of honor in some faraway kings’ lands
Long enough to recite the voice of my instructor
Go back and learn English, he said, 30 years ago
Go back, where? I should have asked. I am an American citizen now
I had more than nine minutes to say something then, but I didn’t
I now speak
of the shields of wrought-with-privilege skin
Nine minutes
Corpses of rebels dragged on the street of my hometown. Dictators wearing blue and guns.
Nine minutes
I see all the resumes ripped in nine seconds before being read:
the name doesn’t sound right.
Nine minutes you push a baby out of your birth canal
and she screams and she cries. There is no going back
Nine minutes
The face stares at the camera while pushing Life out of another man
Cold stare to boil nations to burn cities to cleanse brains to move mountains to yank roots
from roots and turn the skies upside down.

Nine minutes. My daughter will never be pushed behind a boy
Nine minutes. My accent will not drag my face in the mud
Nine minutes to erase color signifiers from the brain
Nine minutes. Free the people of shackles and nooses
No cries of tortures in prisons. No rape behind fancy titles. No resumes in the trash because they
hold a foreign name. Not again.

Nine minutes: the collar the iron bit the whip come to life
Not all lynching uses ropes
One can be killed without hanging without burning
killed by smothering breath, opportunities, and potentials
Nine minutes. Long enough to measure the distance between “white only” and “colored” bathrooms
the chasm of the mindlessness between the front and the back seats of a bus
between two water fountains on the same block
Nine minutes is longer than 50 years passed.
Different disguise. Different script.
Nine minutes. Long enough to plow into
murderer fathers, rapist uncles, beating husbands, abusive school teachers, killer cops, dictators,
kings, instructors. All have blood on their hands.
All kneeled one time or another over a helpless neck to squeeze out lives

Nine minutes.
Let the oppressed rise.

Rana Bitar is a Syrian American physician, poet, and writer. She holds a Master’s in English from SNHU. She is the author of the poetry chapbook A Loaf Of Bread: Unsolicited Press, 2019. Her memoir, The Long Tale Of Tears and Smiles will be published by Global Collective Publishers in 2021. Her poetry appeared in many journals, including, DoveTales, Pittsburgh Poetry Review,  and The Phoenix. She is a contributor to Seeing Things: Anthology of Poetry: Bright Hill Press, 2020. Her essay, The Sliding Door, appeared in The Pharos in 2020. Forthcoming in Pink Panther Magazine is her essay, In The Alley.

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