Ravenel: A Poem For Charleston (2012-2015)

CharlestonBy Melissa Rae Sipin-Gabon, originally posted on her blog on June 18, 2015

the ravenel bridge in charleston
is a white, looming structure
over the south peninsula

where i climb over the fence
and think—not of dying—
but meeting the black medical student

who jumped into the teal
shimmering bay
just a few days earlier

at work, we heard the news

over the radio, interspersed
between minute-to-minute broadcast updates
about a white man who stopped traffic

drove into the bridge’s concrete wall
wrote with black, bolded letters
on the side of his truck: i want to die

he didn’t succeed in killing himself
but his life story was on the tip
of everybody’s tongues

unlike the black medical student
whose story was spat out by the townsfolk
forgotten and thrown to the sea
just like her body
dismantled by coldness

my coworker said: poor guy
he gone and try to kill himself
but i gave my peace
sent my prayers all the way to heaven

but that forsaken bridge
and its fence
needs to be higher

other folks can’t be trusted

i asked her: others like whom?

she dodged my looks
with her blue eyes
so shallow like water
so shallow like water

so here i am
standing at the edge
sitting with my feet
dangling over the bridge
this concrete wall
that forever breaks us

cars past by me and honk

i’m not thinking of dying
i just came here to ask her—
beautiful tosin oyelowo—
to ask everyone—

simmons sr.

how do we mourn?
how do we mourn?
forever will we mourn.

NOTE: This is a poem I wrote back in 2012, while I was still living in North Charleston. I had to re-write it today after the massacre/terrorist attack in a historic black church in Charleston, SC. Charleston became a second home to me during my two years there, the place of my personal second, radicalized birth. My heart is in agony over the anti-black racism that’s been churning and churning in the media recently. We know this is nothing new. This doesn’t make the rage less painful, less agonizing… For me, I have to write. It is my one truth that helps me keep moving, keep living. My heart is with all those who are suffering over this tragedy. You are loved; we are loved…

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