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Mia You Reads Rickey Laurentiis’s ‘I Saw I Dreamt Two Men’ at Jacket2

By Harriet Staff


At Jacket2, Mia You explores Ricky Laurentiis’s poem “I Saw I Dreamt Two Men,” in a reading informed by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Audre Lorde. You focuses on questions of empathy, eros, and disembodiment as they pertain to the murder of Tamir Rice. More:

Laurentiis is the writer of “I Saw I Dreamt Two Men.” And, right now, here, I am the reader. One could say that we approach it from opposite directions. But still, the poem is the place where we meet. I saw I dreamt two…

I’m nearly at the end of reading Coates’ book when I find out that Timothy Loehmann, the Cleveland police officer that shot and killed Tamir Rice – because the 12-year-old was playing with a toy gun in a park – would not face criminal charges. Tamir’s face appears again and again on my computer and iPhone screens, either through news articles or Facebook and Twitter posts. Every time, I feel my heart and lungs tighten. I think, “He was just a child. A child like my son. This could have been my son. How can my country condone his killing?”

This could have been my son. I think constantly about the grief his mother must feel. Then I think about disembodiment. Samira Rice’s son is dead. My son is alive. Her child, an American citizen, was shot by the police while playing with a toy gun in a local park. My child, an American citizen, wouldn’t have been. The policeman Timothy Loehmann most likely would have hesitated, for more than two seconds, before destroying my son’s body. I know this so well, I only think about it now.

The body of Samira Rice’s son was marked as black. The body of my son is not. That Tamir is dead, and that this is not a crime, is our state’s final, violent mark on his body. To not see this is to participate in the disembodiment.

In “Age, Race, Class, and Sex,” Audre Lorde writes: “Some problems we share as women, some we do not. You fear your children will grow up to join the patriarchy and testify against you, we fear our children will be dragged from a car and shot down in the street, and you will turn your backs upon the reasons they are dying.”

For me to look at Tamir’s face, only to see him as the stolen child of another mother, and to grieve his death by saying, “This could have been my son,” would be me turning my back upon the reasons he died. It would be me turning my back upon the fear his mother and the mothers of other black sons live with in the United States, a fear imposed upon them through centuries of racist acts. By effacing the various distances between us – the distances our society and history have cultivated and sustained between us – I would not be empathizing with their grief, but projecting mine in place of theirs. In other words, I would be testifying against them, saying that they must search for some other reason, other than the clear and categorical terrorism of our state, that their sons’ bodies are threatened in a way my son’s is not.

And so, I am kneeled.

Continue at Jacket2.

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Posted in Poetry News on Thursday, January 14th, 2016 by Harriet Staff.