Lakeside Park: Juneteenth 2021

By Collin Edmonds


 I. 

Somethin ‘bout the summer heat 

makes the liquor boil

 in your belly.

 With each bead of sweat

 patience leaves 

your body. It’s wet t-shirt weather— 

It’s summer and niggas 

are dying again. 

There’s something about the heat

 that makes niggas reach for it.

 II.

 The Sun stretches out

 its arms and calls

 a few more of us back

 home. All this heat

 and we are still wearing black

It took two hours to bury that man

 The ground don’t crack

 open easy these days.

 Metal bounces off the earth

 like it’s bulletproof. 

Even the act of dying

 is harder this time of year.

 III.

 The City

 The block is always hot

 I been thirsty. Calling

 out for water

 And got:

 blood, 

A bullet,

 A body soaked

 in its own family’s tears.

 You dig into my flesh,

 fill me with your dead

 and call me a living thing?

 IV.

 The Lake

 When the earth is full

 It sends me

 the bodies it can’t swallow.

 Look how you flock

 to me like I aint been swallowing niggas

 like you for generations.

 Everybody in this city knows

 someone with an epitaph in my depths.

 The whole hood crowds

 my banks each summer.

I tempt more and more

 into my gullet with each passing

 year. Last week, niggas celebrated

 their freedom. I reminded them

 I still hold chained bodies in my stomach.

 I devoured a few more

 to remind them I am still hungry.

 Bullet holes make a body sink quicker

 V.

It makes me physically sick being surrounded by death and sweltering heat. I wake up with a headache and an obituary for a familiar face. The weatherman says it’s only going to get hotter, which means niggas gonna keep shooting, and keep dying, and the ground will swallow as many bodies as it can carry. 

The lake will claim the rest. Niggas will still chill by the water. Last week’s deaths are washed away by this week’s tides. The weekend fills Oakland with new life. A procession of dirt bikes, four wheelers, and lowriders cruise down Grand Ave in a way that makes it seem like nobody just died here. Nobody could die here. Bullets have no plate at the cookout. 

Don’t you smell all this food? Don’t you hear all this music? All this laughter? All this joy?

This is how we mourn. We turn vigils to celebrations: A home going for every body that drops here. We throw a couple more burgers on the grill, and take a few more sips of Cognac. The DJ plays another track, and we all sing “Tell me when to go, tell me when to go.” Instead of going dumb, we go home before a bullet makes a house of our bones. 

The only homegoing is an evening commute down the interstate. The lake littered with empty bottles, trash and an overwhelming feeling of joy. 

This moment filled with music, and dance, and laughter, and a hope for a better tomorrow. 

This is something not even Death can take from us.


Collin Edmonds is a writer, educator, organizer, and father from Richmond, California. He is the Co-Founder of RichOak Events, one of the largest producers of poetry events in the San Francisco Bay Area. His work speaks on racism, grief, triumph through struggle and perseverance. 

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