Helios Rising, Unsilenced, and Civil War
On the few nights
the moon shone brighter than streetlights,
we would climb out our windows
to drink the city air.
Shoulder to shoulder,
we’d pretend our watches
weren’t forcing us apart,
take in shallow breaths – so afraid
of any movement that might
bring on the dawn.
Still, the truth fell on us quickly
as the city woke up,
kitchen lights blinking on,
slow and irreversible.
Our voices contain the power
to destroy civilizations.
So they built prisons,
our bodies enclosed in steel and cement,
released only briefly each day to remind us
of the world they think is no longer ours.
we look towards the waning sun,
at the sky that goes on further than we can see.
We whisper in our mother tongues,
grasp hands bound by thread,
and sing our thanks that the gates they built
could not keep butterflies from landing on our lips
and melting away like sugar spun and sold
in the bustling street markets of home,
so many miles away.
We are told to smile for the firing squad,
wave to the spectator— once our neighbor,
now free to hiss and sputter, to charge
without breaking decorum.
What is civility when you look your murderer in the eye?
Must we continue to stammer, to sweeten our words,
feign defenselessness, stupidity,
make no sudden movements
lest the onlookers return home to report
‘round the dinner table that we deserved
everything we got.
As our bodies are interred, they will murmur
that if only we had not struggled,
if we had stood perfectly still,
wearing the right clothes,
bearing the right papers
and the right smiles,
all would still be well.
Tiffany Babb is a mixed-race, bisexual poet currently based in New York.