Clutch (20/30)

have you ever seen a man
unafraid to die

recognize
the clinched fists
and look in his eyes

when I saw him
charging in my direction
I panicked

had no idea
what made him
come crashing my way
like a freight train
going far too fast
for the load it was carrying

felt the steam
screaming a reminder
of where we are
and what happens to men
who end up in the hands
of those who swore
to protect and serve

so as he passed
my rubber band arms
strapped around that wrecking ball
and I did what I do best

I held him

thinking
“what the fuck do I do now”

watching man after man
jump directly
in the path of destruction
shoved to the side
like raindrops
meeting windshield wipers
at max speed

I held on tight

whispering a nickname
that didn’t have the right
to continuously fall
from my lips
urging him not to fight
but he couldn’t hear me

digging my feet into the ground
forcing this hurricane
backwards

oh, yes
I panicked

knowing his fists
would be no match for a gun
knowing his angry words
might meet a fearful bullet
knowing an approaching siren
meant this
might be the last time
anyone
holds him
again

meanwhile…

he is a lion

fighting to protect his pride
fighting to sink teeth
into flesh
fighting like
“what’s a cage to a king”
and “you ain’t no tamer”
this be no circus
this be real life
where knock on neighbor’s door
gets greeted with last breath

here I am woman
holding onto a man
trying to decide
whether to drag him down
or hold him up

meanwhile…

I’m thinking
I was supposed to be in bed
I was supposed to be home by now
I was supposed to not care
this much
and why can’t anyone help me

and he is down
seated on stairs
between these thighs
these arms wrapped tight
these legs ready to vice grip
but he doesn’t fight
anymore

the police are near
and we all step outside
the night takes us
across the street
running around the block
searching for my car
driving strangers
to random destinations

this
is an every day occurrence
and daily fear
that another black body
will lay cold in his own blood

that an officer will mistake
his pain for a weapon

that they will shoot first
and not apologize later

I have felt so guilty
for clutching him
for not letting him
“be a man”
for putting my heart
where it does not belong

but I’ll be damned
if I stand by
and watch
someone I love
enter a battlefield
alone

when the dust settles
and I reach my friend’s house
I am a mix of frightened
and pained
I am relief
in not having to tell his mother
“I’m sorry”
I am a strong woman
I am an abandoned ex-lover
I am a body of aches
and pains
and a quiet voice repeating

“I couldn’t let him”
“I couldn’t let him”
“I couldn’t let him die in front of me”

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