By Collin Edmonds
Somethin ‘bout the summer heat
makes the liquor boil
in your belly.
With each bead of sweat
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.
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.
The block is always hot
I been thirsty. Calling
out for water
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?
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
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.