“On this night, lover, as we say a silent grace over plain white rice, I wonder if you, like me, pray for an unborn child we’ve already imagined barrel-gun shot in the chest.”
Those are the haunting lines recited by Dominican poet Elizabeth Acevedo in her spoken word poem “Beloved, Or If You Are Murdered Tomorrow.” Described by Acevedo as a “love letter” to her partner, the heartbreaking spoken word poem captures what she feels it’s like to fear your loved one will be shot and killed by police.
“I know now the world is rotting timber and it always sees men like you as a loosened ember, a loosie, lit and waiting to fall on all the combustible it be,” she recites. “I wonder if I will be like Sean Bell’s fiancee. If like her, the night before our vows, I’ll dream of your ivory bowtie spotted with blood. Wake with a start as bullets whistle death hymns into your flesh. If I’ll be tying blue ribbons to my wedding bouquet. When your picture appears on my TV and on my Twitter feed, will be that the only photo in our wedding album?”
Acevedo told The Huffington Post that the poem is inspired by the thoughts that run through her head when she hears that yet another black man has been shot and killed by police. “I was cooking black beans the day when the Jordan Davis case went to trial, and I was distracted, thoughtless in some ways, and the pot boiled over and the beans burned,” Acevedo said. “Something about that image really struck home. How the stove smudged, how the beans look when they’re split open, how heavy my heart was over this kid in Florida. But the history of Moros y Cristianos (Moors and Christians) also played into the moment. This is a Caribbean dish of simple ingredients, rice and beans elevating the other. It’s also A dish named after the Moor conquest of Spain. The racial dynamics in all of that: the Caribbean, Spain and North Africa, Jordan Davis, coalesced through that metaphor. It was how I was able to enter the poem by exploring that moment and my stake in it as an Afro-Latina and partner of a black man.”
Acevedo first performed her poem in November. Less than two weeks after Acevedo’s performance of the poem was uploaded to All Def Poetry, we learned the names of two black men and five Latinos who were shot and killed by police.
In the wake of these most recent events, Acevedo says she will continue to say the names of those who have been slain by police and find ways to dismantle “a very corrupt system,” but she won’t be doing so through spoken word for a while. “I’ve been writing this kind of poem for over half my life,” she explains. “I think I want to concentrate on celebrating black lives, and joy, and love. I don’t want to write about death for a while.”
Watch Acevedo perform her poem in its entirety above.