Destiny O. Birdsong

Every year, my mother says,
there are two things that happen
when the state fair comes to town:
the October air turns cool for the first time,
and someone always gets killed.
This year it’s down to 48 degrees,     
and a retaliation drive-by on Bloods by Crips
who took their revenge on a bystander.

He was a high-school kid who’d only gone
to buy a turkey leg for his mother. 
The way my sister tells it, on the 10 o’clock news
that woman vowed through tears she’d seal the meat
in her freezer, so she could remember him forever. 
We’re passing the fairgrounds. The Pirate Ship looms, 
its burnished belly a pulverizing blade.
And the Ferris wheel,
whose narrow, paint-cracked seats
take turns reeling above the tangle of queues.

Through the window blows
the smell of roasting meat;

we think of the black mother,
the black son,
the charred turkey leg. 

We look down at our black hands
and laugh uncomfortably.

first appeared in Handful of Dust

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