I whisper, “rest in peace” to you every year but I know you’re not;
I know you’re here, with me—a whisper’s length away;
I can feel you in my bones, resonating, tarnishing golden skin,
we both decay: you decompose while I fall apart every time I hear your story.
Manhood defined only my slaughter, bought off on bad credit—
Ron Ebens says he lives paycheck to paycheck now, off of social security I pay into from fitting in.
Begs the question why I pay for his life, why you paid with yours,
why we all pay for the murderer who thought you were the Japanese threat to livelihood,
thought you were looking at him funny,
thought you were returning his abuse just a little too much,
thought you didn’t bleed red or fear God like he did,
thought you were anything but
I bought a baseball bat today
to keep in my car so the next time I get called “chink” in traffic,
blamed for Pearl Harbor by some ironic hipster,
or just side-eyed from different eyes that “think I am,”
we can bypass the teaching moment;
sputter hurt against hurt
against out of work auto workers shape-shifted to
thick framed glasses with bachelor’s degrees and too much time,
shape-shifted to color blindness negating history
shape-shifted to badge excuses and stolen ground stood
shape-shifted to maybe just this once, I can hit back for us and win,
maybe just this once, I’m not all of us
maybe just this once, we’ll sleep tonight.
They’ll hose my guts out of the gutter, call it “manslaughter,”
we’ll call it a lullaby, Vince,
you and me,
we’ll call it a lullaby.