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Because You Expressed Desire, Once, to Be Here



Honorable Mention for the 2013 Adroit Prize for Poetry
Judge: Garth Greenwell

I’m thinking back to the night I watched you
make a C with your index finger
and thumb, lift your hand in the air—
for a gang whose expansion from the west
I failed to notice, for a family
you swapped with ours—
as we walked alone from the convenience store
back to your house. You said to me,
Grandma fusses too much,
and she said to me, You should talk some sense into him.
But even if I had a phone,
I wouldn’t know how to inform you about death,
how the end result could be you
wading in your own blood. I go to an arts school,
where the poetry is good, but
no poet can make life live again.
However I did attend the funeral of our cousin Derrick,
who was involved in a gang in Brooklyn.
You were there. You cried even though
we barely knew him. That moment
made Grandma and me question everything
we thought we knew about you.
I would hate to find myself sitting
in a church pew again, my young back
aching from the stiff wood, the cushions
behind me not doing any work at all.
And you, you know where you’d be.
Don’t make me say it. Don’t make me relive
the times we walked through Sellers—
only town I know that doesn’t have a traffic light—
without your voice describing the journey,
brothers in high school still sleeping in the same bed.
Because when given the chance to lie
somewhere else, you refused, laughing
when Grandma called you a little boy. It was a joke,
but what if we could remain that way?
Two young boys spread out underneath a blanket,
watching the movie Soul Food so we could see
the sex scenes. Because that would give us
an excuse to talk about girls and how we understood them.
But, really, we knew nothing.


Da’Shawn Mosley is a rising sophomore at the University of Chicago, where he is studying English Language and Literature. He was named a 2012 United States Presidential Scholar in the Arts by the White House and the Department of Education. His work has been published by Scholastic, Inc. in the anthology The Best Teen Writing of 2011 and in an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian. His chapbook Boy: Personal Essays and Poems is scheduled for release this summer.