Born with Bullets in My Back
By Dimitri A. Reyes

It has become normal for figures of authority to cloud my mind through their
of aggression and intolerance for the communities they serve, possibilities of street
tragedies perpetuate my racing thoughts to the point where I cannot breathe

media has put bullets in my back       (5 of them to be exact) and chooses
to plant the gun on others from the same places as me, saying we are the ones
that are taking things out of context

that I need to know the police officers are innocent according their judicial system,
and the media tells me this while I’m seated in their chokehold as I watch
cops walk out of the courtroom and continue with their second chance lives stolen
from their victims, they’re living vampires, “I knew the man who got killed in the

is something I hear too much

   1.) Alton Sterling July 5th
   2.) Philando Castile July 6th
   3.) Delrawn Small July 11th
   4.) Dylan Noble August 2nd

one death for each day of a cop’s work week minus one,
for that fifth day could potentially be waiting for me,
532 people killed within 6 months of 2016 and rising,
if a cop notions that there is something I’m hiding

I fear the barrel of a gun could potentially meet me:
cold steel waiting to be heated, glimmering against the badge pinned
to the blue uniform that shakes the blue steel and aims to see my
unoxygenated blue blood turn red on the triggers release

I can see it now, bullets emblazoned with my real name,
not the one on my birth certificate but the one I’ve been destined
to have since my ancestors first met conquistadors
and were told they needed to be enslaved to be saved

this real name that makes me a suspected criminal worth investigating,
whether I am driving a car that’s considered a whoopty or a luxury vehicle,
the same name that makes me a threat to authority because many of my
people hit rock bottom, making the wrong choices based on neighborhood

cultures developed by uniformed sovereignty, my elusive name that communicates
a person without humanity that grants me historically unworthy of a testimonial
or fair trial at my own funeral, my name engraved in authority’s lead as another

“person of color” a phrase overused as a way to safely describe systematic
expression for racism now associates me with a target resting on the shoulders
of a hollowed body with a rhetoric of stereotypic assumptions about my education,
associates, activities, and what I am reaching for in my glove compartment

and where bullets keep burning through our skin is where America’s culture
keeps changing and aims at the progress policing, where the force becomes
progressively, consciously, aware of their oath: to serve and protect

I begin to ask myself who they are trying to serve because I feel unprotected
in recent cases where trigger happy cops issue more apologies than tickets
and commissioners condemn more officers as rogue outliers they seem
to have taken another pledge, the unofficial hood manifesto of

“I’m not living, I’m surviving” a militarized police presence
where every routine stop of a colored face warrants a chance for transgression
so they draw their glock before their badge pointing it and then claim
that they were threatened

they say that they are threatened
                                                                     but so am I

and we are scared because they are scared I have grown up to believe
that nothing is more dangerous than an individual with a book in their hand
but volumes of bound paper cannot protect me from .9 millimeters
I am scared because I do not want to die over the miseducation of the ones

who serve, protect, and kill, I am scared because dying means the summation of
     my voice
will result in the next hashtag, to take my final stand against atrocities as a 2
clickable memorial, demoted to a pound key followed by my name because I was
as the “certain kind of people” who could only be silenced through their own death.

Dimitri A. Reyes is a graduate student in the Rutgers-Newark MFA program and teaches in the undergraduate poetry courses on campus.