Sunday, November 17, 2013


On the occasion of the front page of the Chattanooga Times Free-Press displaying the photos of 32 Black men arrested in a major drug sweep to break up gangs and the trade in crack cocaine.


It is sorrow
A sadness for the badness
32 Black men and their facing
Front, on the first page
Gathered, swept,
Rounded not up but down.

Facing not merely the camera
Where our eyes see them
As no longer simply a name
But an accompanied face,
Each a story, and the
Imminent possibility of
A great cumulative loss
To us, for themselves,
For our future.

They are men
Responsible for their own
They are accountable.
Yet their collective loss
Hurts and haunts us all.

We lament for their victims;
The dead, the wounded,
The crippled, the intimidated,
The seduced, the addicted,
The impoverished.

We lament the children
They have produced
But whom they will not raise.

We lament the women,
Mothers, lovers, daughters,
Who if they see them
Will see them in places
Far, with spaces separated;
Bars, glass, and wire.

We lament the whole
Sorry story repeated
Once again in fatherless boys.
We lament the communities
Without their talents,
Initiative, leadership, and juice
They gave to crime;
Now stored away doing time.

We lament the schools
They condemn to children
Who know no discipline
And will nothing know.
No one at home to call them
Higher, No aspiration
For family, career, or meaning.

We lament the prisons
Full of others just like them.
We lament the system
That gives them longer years
And fewer tears than white boys.

We lament the system
That chooses one drug worse than another
We lament the profiling
The stops, the frisks.
We lament the
Racism that will
Accept that front page as
Inevitable but not

We lament the politicians
Who will not stand for
Families, who reward
Immorals but not marriage,
The judges who never say
“No” to a divorce.

We lament the churches
Who will not send or stay
But leave the places
Where these men are from,
That could have mentored,
That could have shaped
That might have warned,
That should have loved.

Years in prison may protect us
But it will not heal us,
Nor change those we send away.
Growing old may slow them down,
But we should weep for our collective loss,
And we should wonder if the cycle
Will come around again.

Let us weep for our children
Let us weep for our loss
Let us see empty spaces
Which these mugged faces
Will leave us
As they leave us
And in our weeping
May we find resolve
That our city will stop
Losing what could have been.

 Randy Nabors

17 November, 2013

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