Mezzo Soprano

Dedicated to Tyre Nichols and Veronica Williams

They say there’s video.
I don’t want to see.
I hate these movies where another black brother dies.
I consider the man and the woman who made him.
I curse the men that unmade him.
I curse the silence of I and
America, America.

How we till our rich killing power.
How we stamp our silky dew rags, our many strands of black curls
beneath the steeled toed boot, beneath the iron hearts of power.

They say there’s video.
It’s enough to tear a real heart apart and lay it dying on the lawn.
So much blood runs out 
on these streets of America, caught 
in the hands, in the aprons of mother, 
the sister, 
in the name of the father.
There’s too much blood that’s watered this soil.
We think it goes nowhere.
But its slaked the root’s thirsts and made our ghosts stronger.

They say there’s a video.
I don’t want to see.
On flickering screens, he was too much to be. 

Time could stop.

Breath could cease.

I would understand
if this mezzo soprano before me
never sang another note
and hung her shrouded soul in dark.

But there’s a bird rattling in her lungs.
It has to get free.
The louder the strings sing all around her,
the harder the wings beat to flee.
Despite all this darkness, despite all this murder,
she lifts her heart’s corners,
smiles to the stage lights,
and the bird flutters free
on the old familiar strings:

We shall overcome,
and she makes me believe.

— Emily Romano