Almost Livin' Almost Dyin' 

for all the dead

                                                                                         & hear my streets
with ragged beats & the beats
are too beat to live so the graves push out with
hands that cannot touch the makers of light & the
sun flames down through the roofs & the roots that slide
to one side & the whistlin' fires of the cops & the cops
in the shops do what they gotta do & your body's
on the fence & your ID's in the air & the shots
get fired & the gas in the face & the tanks
on your blood & the innocence all around & the
spillin' & the grillin' & the grinnin' & the game of Race
no one wanted & the same every day so U fire &
eat the smoke thru your long bones & the short mace
& the day? This last sweet Swisher day that turns to love
& no one knows how it came or what it is or what it says
or what it was or what for or from what gate
is it open is it locked can U pull it back to your life
filled with bitter juice & demon angel eyes even though
you pray & pray mama says you gotta sing she says
you got wings but from what skies from where could
they rise what are the things the no-things called love
how can its power be fixed or grasped so the beats
keep on blowin' keep on flyin' & the moon tracks your bed
where you are alone or maybe dead & the truth
carves you carves you & calls you back still alive
cry cry the candles by the last four trees still soaked
in Michael Brown red and Officer Liu red and
Officer Ramos red and Eric Garner whose
last words were not words they were just breath
askin' for breath they were just burnin’ like me like
we are all still burnin' can you hear me
can you can you feel me swaggin' tall & driving low &
talkin' fine & hollerin' from my corner crime & fryin’
                                                                            against the wall
 
almost livin' almost dyin'
almost livin' almost dyin'
 

Juan Felipe Herrera, "Almost Livin’ Almost Dyin’" from Notes on the Assemblage. Copyright © 2015 by Juan Felipe Herrera.  Reprinted by permission of City Lights Books, www.citylights.com.
Source: Notes on the Assemblage (City Lights Books, 2015)
More Poems by Juan Felipe Herrera