Prepare while he is still alive.
Know that from the moment
your belly swelled with him
he was in the crosshairs.
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Tell the boy to pull up his pants
to walk with purpose, pursue greatness
but know that it won’t protect him.
After expending your maternal energy
realize there is a competing trilogy
of blood, bone, and bullet.
If it has been 48 hours
since your last phone conversation
strengthen your index finger
for numerous redials.
Know his haunts as well as
his homies and his honeys
so they can be properly interrogated.
Have a statement prepared
for the reporters who pretend
to care, practice the 1000-yard stare
so you can look into the camera
and plead with the perpetrator
to turn himself in. Cry out
for the folks in the neighborhood
who saw something to come forward.
Don’t expect them to.
Save one tenth of all your earnings
to cover the reward money.
Stock up on candles and flowers
and teddy bears to adorn the shrine
where you will find the body
outlined in chalk. Discover the thin line
between funeral and circus.
Every member of the family or community
need not offer a eulogy.
Have an array of photos prepared
for the Rest-in-Peace T-shirts
that will need to be printed.
Clear out cabinet space
for all the napkins, paper plates
and plastic cups that will be left over after
the crowd in your home disappears.
Learn to live with the silence.
Realize that in the darkest hour
a mother’s arms have the ability
to embrace ghosts.
Steel your heart against that moment
each morning you awake
to the returning grief.
Arrive at the conclusion
that there is no substance
on earth that can fill the hole
but God can comfort the space around it.
Help the hood discern the difference
between snitch and witness
because senseless murder
is everybody’s business.
Become initiated into the sorority
no woman wants to belong to.
Know that tomorrow
it will be another mother’s son
inking the headlines.
Go to her. She will need you.
Glenn North is a Kansas City poet as well as director of education and public programs at the Black Archives of Mid-America. He delivered this poem at a fundraising reception in December for KC Mothers in Charge. The Kansas City Star’s editorial board selected the organization’s founder, Rosilyn Temple, as 2015 Citizen of the Year.